Football is finally back BAAAABBY!!! As we draw ever so close to kick-off the new NFL campaign, let’s take a closer look at another burning topic surrounding the San Francisco 49ers, and that is…linebacker depth.
The 2018 Quest for Six, begins this Thursday (8/9/18), as the Niners clash with the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the fact that it’s only a preseason game with very few ramifications, this is one rivalry that never loses its luster. The Niners had their tails handed to them during a 2017, Week 7 matchup between the two historic franchises. Again, only a preseason game with limited reps for starters and vets, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few scuffles break out because of lingering bad blood (hopefully nothing too crazy).
Now, on to the position battle of interest this week: the linebackers! I absolutely love what the Niners have done with their defensive depth, especially with the entire front seven. Reuben Foster, Eli Harold and Malcolm Smith all seem to be bona fide locks as starters. Waiting in the wings to relieve those superstars are another trio of studs: fifth-year man Brock Coyle, seventh-year pro Korey Toomer and rookie stud Fred Warner.
Coyle had the most productive year (statistically) of his young career in 2017. Due to a plethora of injuries, Coyle found himself starting 10 games, notching 38 tackles, forcing one fumble, logging a half sack and breaking up one pass. Coyle will be looking to build on his success from last season.
Toomer is another solid veteran addition. He’s coming off a career-high 15 games played (eight starts), while racking up 46 tackles, 1.0 sack, one interception, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed. I’m really looking forward to the defensive contributions from everyone along the front seven, but the linebacker position will be especially crucial since Reuben Foster will begin the season serving a two-game suspension.
Every player will be tasked with filling in until Foster’s return, even standout rookies like Fred Warner. Warner had a nice collegiate career, playing in 49 games (42 starts) in four years and registered 264 tackles. He also notched 32.0 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, 7 INTs (returning 2 for TDs), 5 FRs and 13 PDs. For the sake of the Niners quest for six, Warner needs to exceed expectations and hold down the fort until Foster gets back in the line- up. As for the remaining linebackers on the depth chart, Pita Taumoepenu, Elijah Lee and Mark Nzeocha, they will all have an opportunity to show up and show out!
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