We’re getting closer and closer. I’m ready to turn the page from the offseason and get back to real football.
Not drafting an edge rusher. The 49ers’ aggressive, attacking defense hinges on explosive defensive ends. The 49ers have that dynamic … but only when Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are healthy. They missed nearly all of 2020 with serious injuries from which they’re still recovering. The team is optimistic — especially when it comes to Bosa — they’ll make full recoveries. But considering how essential the position is, it’s a bit puzzling they didn’t do much at the edge beyond adding Samson Ebukam (signed for two years), Arden Key (one year) and Jordan Willis (one year). (The NFL recently suspended Willis for violating its performance-enhancing drugs policy, and he must miss the first six games.) During their recent defensive heydays, teams like the Ravens and Steelers always seemed to have a stable of young pass rushers to develop. — Matt Barrows
The 49ers will get a boost from some uncontrollable factor in 2021
It was a lost 2020 season for the 49ers, who lost key contributors Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa and George Kittle for significant portions of the year. Naturally, their hopes of competing for a Super Bowl in 2021 depend upon keeping their key contributors healthy. Rookie first-round pick Trey Lancemight be able to step in for Garoppolo at quarterback, but there’s nobody on the roster who can fill in for Kittle or Bosa. Injuries aren’t totally random — some players are more susceptible to injury than others — but the Niners can’t really control whether a player like Bosa stays healthy in a given season.
49ers roster cuts
Over the last few years, NFL teams were allowed to make all their roster cuts to get down from 90 players to 53 following the last preseason game. Or in the case of last year, not long in advance of Week 1.
But the NFL reverted back to an older rule that gradually reduces offseason roster sizes from 90 to 53 players, as first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
- Tuesday, Aug. 17 — teams must cut rosters to 85 players
- Tuesday, Aug. 24 — teams must cut rosters to 80 players
- Tuesday, Aug. 31 — teams must cut rosters to 53 players
WARD: “That culture when I first got here, if you don’t remember, I’ll remind you. Guys were retiring. We had the whole (Colin) Kaepernick situation. I understand all of that stuff, and I don’t have too much to say about that it, but all that hurt the team. It kind of separated guys. There was Aldon Smith and Kaepernick in the locker room, that whole situation. There was a lot of stuff going on.
“Watkins just isn’t talked about because he has been hurt, but I like Sammy. I feel like he’s a No. 1 receiver. I feel like he’s the reason (the Chiefs) won a Super Bowl. People are going to give it Tyreek Hill, they’re going to give it Travis Kelce, but Sammy is aggressive, tall, big catch radius — he’s an athlete. And he took a paycut for two years. I was pissed. He went to the Ravens though. Cool. Give ‘em hell over there.”
However, despite missing eight games in 2020, Williams amassed 22 tackles, two sacks, four passes defended and a forced fumble. He allowed an opposing passer rating of just 81.9. When healthy in 2019, Williams was even more productive. He notched two interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of 76.1. Expect him to be one of the most important pieces of San Francisco’s secondary this season.”
Despite his contributions, Bleacher Report still believes that the nickelback is one of the more under-appreciated players on that 49ers defense.
“San Francisco will likely lean on its defense again in 2021, and cornerback K’Waun Williams might be the most overlooked member of that unit.”