In their first media availability during the offseason, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said that edge rusher Dee Ford was often rehabbing at the team facility. That was back in March, as Ford was recovering from neck and back injuries that forced him to miss the majority of the 2020 season.
Fast forward to July, and we’re less than a week away from the Niners starting training camp. Many feel that Ford providing any help to the defense this season would be a luxury, given his injury history.
On Friday morning, Fred Warner made it sound like Ford will be a big part of the Niners pass-rush this year:
“Yeah, Dee, he’s great. He looks great. He’s back. I’ve seen him plenty, and he’s been working his tail off. I know the type of player that he is, and the fact that he’s back healthy is going to give us a huge advantage, so I’m really excited about seeing him back. I know his mind is right. His mentality is exactly what we need for the defense.”
Ford’s physical skill set and leadership are exactly what the Niners' defense needs. I always remember leading up to Super Bowl 54 when every defensive lineman pointed to how important Ford had been to the team, both on and off the field.
If Ford is indeed healthy, then that’s a heck of a boost to an already dangerous defense. Nick Bosa is coming off an ACL injury, so it’s safe to assume he might take some time to get his legs back under him. However, if Ford is ready to roll by Week 1, that takes the pressure off everyone.
Samson Ebukam remains the wild card, but if he’s looked at as a hybrid rusher along with Bosa, Ford, Arik Armstead, and Javon Kinlaw, good luck finding a better five-man pass-rush in the league.
“I’ll believe it when I see it” is an approach a good portion of you will take, and that’s fair, as Ford played just 22% of the snaps in 2019 and 4% in 2020. Based on Ford’s history, he’s been healthy every other year, so 2021 would suggest that he stays on the field.
We’ll see, but Ford’s availability is a big deal as it helps manage the defensive line’s snap counts and ensures nobody has to play more than they have to early in the season, which would keep them healthy throughout the season.