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Gold Diggers: One area where the 49ers defense will improve

Strengthening the last remaining weak spot on DeMeco Ryans’ unit

If there’s one part of the 49ers that we know we don’t have to worry about, it’s the defense. There are highly talented players at every level, and they’re coached by one of the best coordinators in the entire league. There is one specific area, though, where the 49ers could be better, and they more than likely will be better this year.

Michelle Magdziuk once again made me a smarter fan on today's Gold Standard podcast.

The 49ers allowed the fourth most deep passing yards in the league last year and a league-worst 14% CPOE (completion percentage over expectation). Add on to that the league-leading 21 defensive pass interference penalties totaling 376 yards lost, and you get a bleak picture of some of the problems with last year’s secondary. This is especially troubling, considering the 49ers' defense is premised upon limiting explosive plays by the offense. We all know the recipe by now. Get to the quarterback with the front four and use the remaining seven players to stifle big plays and make the offense have to dink and dunk their way down the field.

Fortunately, the 49ers also recognized this and signed cornerback Mooney Ward to a three-year deal for up to $42 million. Ward allowed a paltry 44% completion percentage last year and had been having a fantastic preseason before his injury. His presence essentially improves the rest of the cornerbacks on the roster, who now get bumped down the coverage ladder toward less talented players.

Emmanuel Moseley as your top cornerback is an okay option, but Emmanuel Moseley as your second cornerback is far better. Throw in the possible emergence of fifth-round draft pick Samuel Womack in the slot, and the 49ers are looking at a cornerback group that should be much better than last year - especially after safety Jimmie Ward returns from short-term IR.

The true question mark lies at safety, both before and after Jimmie Ward returns. Talanoa Hufanga has had his moments, for sure, but most of those have been closer to the line of scrimmage rather than deep in coverage. How he takes over for Jaquiski Tartt will be one of the biggest defensive storylines all year long, particularly since we don’t know for sure who is going to be lining up alongside him for almost a quarter of the season.

If we’re lucky, the improved cornerback depth and a pass rush turbocharged by Javon Kinlaw and Drake Jackson will more than compensate for some deficiencies by the safeties in the early going.

Other topics in today’s show

  • The storyline people are sleeping on in Week 1 (2:30)
  • Why the 49ers should hammer the Bears (4:16)
  • How the defense can suffocate the Bears’ offense (4:48)
  • One potential vulnerability against Chicago (7:20)
  • The 49ers need to let Trey Lance throw on first downs (8:51)
  • Why the Trey Sermon miss hurts even if Jordan Mason is good (13:16)
  • Blake Hance isn’t a good player (16:58)
  • Michelle totally ignores what Stats is saying (20:17)
  • Is Rob overreacting to Jimmy Garoppolo? (23:21)
  • Jimmy isn’t the insurance policy people think he is (26:49)
  • Michelle threatens to quit the podcast (29:03)
  • Lance wasn’t that bad against the Texans (36:12)
  • Questions Jimmy Garoppolo should have been asked (38:08)
  • Michelle will not allow anything negative next week (41:04)
  • Why Stats may have to literally jump in a lake soon (42:28)