During an appearance on KNBR yesterday, Kyle Shanahan provided the sunniest update yet on the status on pass rusher Dee Ford, who only played in one game last year due to a back/neck injury.
“He stayed here all offseason, he did a ton of the right things. We weren’t sure until we got to training camp but we brought him on slowly, but he’s been consistent with it. He’s been out there each day. He’s gotten a lot more in camp this year than he did last year, and he’s looked great in practice. So, our hope that we were going with now is more reality because the way he looks out on the field, he looks like Dee Ford. He didn’t look that way last year in camp at this time. He kinda was just trying to tough it out. Now he looks fresh, he looks good, he’s feeling good. Hopefully he’ll be able to carry that throughout the season but, as of right now it’s a lot more than hope because we’re seeing it with our own eyes.”
I have been as skeptical about Dee Ford as anyone since last season. However, if what Kyle says comes true, the 49ers are easily going to be a playoff team in 2021. I say that not simply because of what those two players can do, but because of what they allow the rest of the team’s defensive front to do. Shanahan himself would call it, “a game changer” later in the interview.
Having Ford and Nick Bosa attacking from the edge allows Arik Armstead to slide inside next to Javon Kinlaw and rush the passer against individual blockers. Don’t forget, when Bosa was tearing up the league in 2019, it was actually Armstead who led the team in sacks with 10 because he hardly ever had to beat a double team.
The same thing can happen again this year, especially given the rest of the talent among the 49ers’ defensive linemen. Combine that increase in talent with a fourth place schedule and we could be looking at defense that closely resembles the one that carried this team to Super Bowl LIV.
For more from Kyle Shanahan’s interview and an interesting clue into Trey Lance’s development from Daniel Brunskill, check out today’s Stats & Eggs podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.