Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
With the 49ers in free fall after another embarrassing loss, this time at the hand of the best team in football, the future seems more and more bleak each week. The 49ers gave up 39 points on Sunday, but the defense was not to blame. With another four turnovers on offense, the defense was put in a very rough spot against the best offense in football. Right out the gate, the 49ers defense started off strong in the first quarter against Jared Goff and the Rams. The run defense continued to be sound, but the secondary held the Rams speedy receivers in check in the first quarter. Near halftime and throughout the entire second half, the 49ers defense got tired and slow. Being on the field for so much of the game as a result of the offensive turnovers, the Niners defense eventually got exposed in the secondary once again.
With the season almost halfway over, we know where the holes are in the 49ers defense. With the run defense holding up all year long, the pass rush and the secondary still loom large as major holes on. One encouraging thing we saw on Sunday was better usage of Solomon Thomas. Thomas, who has barely been used all season, finally got more snaps, and he got them playing inside, back in his natural spot. Overall he looked pretty decent getting after Todd Gurley and the Rams’ running backs on Sunday.
Unfortunately the 49ers suffered another big injury. This time, struggling safety Adrian Colbert suffered a high ankle sprain and was carted off in the middle of the gamee, then was placed on IR and is “unlikely” to return this season. Injuries to young players are never a good thing, but with Pro Football Focus rating Adrian Colbert as one of the worst defensive backs in the NFL, with a grade of 31.7, it's an opportunity to see what other young players can bring to the table.
Moving forward, it’s key that the 49ers continue to develop players in the secondary. Ahkello Witherspoon needs to get healthy and compete with other young guys like Tarvarius Moore. One thing that has been questionable about the rotation of the 49ers defensive players is their usage. Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh continue to rotate guys in and out and the lack of consistency could be costly towards the young players’ development.
The 49ers defense will not fill the massive holes in the secondary and on the edge this season. For the rest of the season, this defense will continue to struggle. What we can look forward to though is consistency. With a depleted secondary and injuries all around, the Niners will be forced to play pretty much the same guys every week. Going into this upcoming offseason, it’s important to understand where the team needs to make additions. Because the pressure is off in terms of competing in 2018, the team can focus on development and finally get these young players some consistent reps and hopefully help formulate what's on the shopping list for 2019.
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