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The 49ers defense is a far cry from when former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was orchestrating Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and company. That defense tackled well, got after the passer and stifled teams on a weekly basis. Now led by Robert Saleh, this defense misses tackles, cannot pressure the quarterback and is shredded on all levels. They wrap up Week 4 as 20th in the league in yards and 27th in points allowed with only 8 sacks.
So, should Robert Saleh be on the hot seat?
There is an immense amount of talent among the front seven. Four players out of that group boast tfirst-round pedigrees. Another, linebacker Fred Warner, appears to be an absolute steal from the dthird round. Yet the group lacks the ability to get to the quarterback or stiffen up against the run. Saleh emphasized a new tackling form to legally bring the ball carrier down in the offseason but the tackling has been among the worst in the league. Missed tackles have plagued the whole defense every week resulting in not only big plays, but something-out-of-nothing plays that swing momentum to the opposing offense.
Saleh’s playcalling also must be questioned. The 49ers rank near the bottom of the league in blitz percentage and play a soft zone coverage almost exclusively. Additionally, teams are easily able to pick up when a defensive lineman is dropped into coverage and exploit the heck out of it. Last Sunday against the Chargers, Saleh finally dialed up some blitzes with LB Reuben Foster and both of those plays were successful with Foster’s speed getting into the backfield disrupting quarterback Phillip Rivers.
The most troubling factor of all is the lack of development from young defensive starters. Safety Adrian Colbert and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon have come back down to earth after finishing their rookie campaigns very strong; couple that with injuries to cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Jaquiski Tartt, and the secondary has been picked apart. Defensive lineman Soloman Thomas has not progressed at all. His inability to muster even the slightest pass rush is extremely problematic for a player drafted dthird overall just a year ago. Good coaching and scheme can elevate players past their perceived abilities. Poor coaching and scheme can have players regress and become shells of their former selves. The latter is beginning to play out as the truth this season.
It appears as though Robert Saleh’s seat is beginning to get a bit toasty.
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