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Let’s be honest, the 2020 season has been hell for the San Francisco 49ers. Starters have gotten injured and replaced by their backups. Backups have gotten injured and free agents were signed to replace them. Then those recently signed free agents have gotten injured.
Then, practice squad players were activated, and guess what? They got injured too!
On top of all that, various players missed time due to positive COVID-19 tests. However, one loss to the 49ers which happened on defense was not due to injury or positive COVID-19 tests. It was linebacker Kwon Alexander who was traded away to the New Orleans Saints.
Alexander was the emotional leader of the team last year. But he is probably best known for anointing the linebacker corps as the “Hot Boyzz,” a nod to the rap group of the late 1990s. Now with Alexander no longer on the team it only seems fair that the linebackers group gets a rebrand of sorts. What might be some fitting names for the unit?
Warner’s Unit Now
With the departure of Alexander, Fred Warner who is quickly becoming one of the best linebackers in the league, is now the de-facto emotional leader of the defense. Therefore, the linebacker corps should be given a moniker that reflects Warner’s brilliance.
“The Fred Heads” would effectively provide a standard by which 49ers linebackers would have to live up to. Warner’s head represents one with a very a high football IQ. He’s excellent at stopping the run and he’s excellent in coverage. In addition to both of those of those qualities he has a nose for the ball and plays sideline to sideline. How could you not want to be a Fred Head?
Honor Thy Defensive Coordinator
Robert Saleh, the defensive coordinator of the 49ers has been integral in making the defense a top-ranked unit in the league over the last season. Despite not having key players like defensive end Nick Bosa and cornerback Richard Sherman due to injury this season, he has still kept his unit competitive. The defense of the 49ers, even with all their injuries still is in the top 10 in yards allowed, only ceding 315.9 per game.
With that in mind, maybe Saleh deserves some recognition. Before he was named the defensive coordinator of the team in 2017, he was previously the linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thus, it’s fair to say he has had influence on the growth of the unit.
The linebackers go and ball out every week for Saleh. Therefore, they could be named “Saleh’s Ballas.”
What About the Linebackers Coach?
While Saleh deserves recognition for the defensive unit’s progress as a whole, there is someone else who has had a direct impact on the linebackers group. That man is inside-linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans.
Ryans, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, has spent time working directly with Warner since his rookie season. He also deserves some of the credit for the success of future All-Pro Warner and the rest of the unit.
How about a linebacker corps nicknamed “Ryans’ Lions”? The majestic creatures that are lions are hunters that stalk their prey and pounce, much like how the linebackers of the 49ers attack opposing offenses. Perfect fit? I’d say so.
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