A Look At The 49ers Defense By Personnel And Usage

Let's take a look at the San Francisco defense's personnel and look at their usage.  

 

Let's take a look at San Francisco's defense.  The table below lists the player, their PFF grade, their snap percentages for the season, and their playing percentages in week 19 and 18.  The snap counts come from nflgsis game book statistics, and the season-long snap information came from Pro Football Reference.  The table then provides the traditional statistics of combined tackles, pressures, and quarterback hits, all of which were derived from PFR.  Note that PFR is not as generous with crediting players with pressures as PFF seems to be.  To give context, I provided Rashan Gary's and Kenny Clark's PFR statistics to compare to the edge players and interior defensive linemen.  I have not included sacks because I think pressures are more important than sacks.  The analysis is based solely on available statistics: no film study was involved. 

Player PFF Snap 19 18 T P QBh
Nick Bosa 89.2 77.5% 23/32% 60/92% 52 49 32
S. Ebukam 66.8 51.1% 53/74% 38/58% 38 16 11
Arden Key 69.5 34.5% 24/33% 19/29% 22 19 17
C. Omenihu 67.7 12.5% 34/47% 14/22% 17 7 4
J. Willis 65.5 14.3% 22/31% 15/23% 15 6 5
Dee Ford IR 9.8% IR IR      
2.0 DEs/snap ave.        
               
Arik Armstead 77.9 75.6% 55/76% 52/80% 63 17 11
D.J. Jones 73.2 50.7% 32/44% 34/52% 56 6 3
Kevin Givens 57.3 21.2% 22/31% 10/15% 17 3 2
Kentravius Street 45.8 32.4% 21/29% 19/29% 27 7 5
Maurice Hurst 71.0 3.8% DNP/IA DNP/IA 2 0 0
Javan Kinlaw IR 13.7% IR IR      
Zach Kerr    5.4% Traded        
2.03 DTs/snap Ave.
               
Rashan Gary 89.3       47 47 28
Kenny Clark 74.9       48 28 14

Nick Bosa is an elite edge player.  Samson Ebukam starts on the other side and is good.  San Francisco has a host of good edge players so they can keep the starters fresh.  Arden Key has a lot of quarterback hits for only playing a third of the time.  Charles Omenihu was a one-man wrecking ball against the Cowboys with 3 quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks.  The group as a whole can get after the quarterback.  Bosa finished with 15.5 sacks, Key with 6.5, Ebukam with 4.5.  Omenihu actually did not have any sacks during the regular season.  They all had good numbers for missed tackles.

Armstead and Jones are the defensive tackles.  Both are very good, with Armstead (6 sacks) being particularly adept with his pass rushing.  The backups are not nearly as good.  Although Maurice Hurst has a fine PFF grade, the sample size is small, and he was Inactive in week 18 and 19, two must-win games.  Javan Kinlaw probably was supposed to be in the rotation but he has been both bad and injured.  In any event, Kinlaw is on IR and will not play.    

 

Player PFF Snap 19 18 T P QBh PR/Target
Al-Shaair 64.6 89% 38/53% DNP/IA 102 5 2 101.3/66
F. Warner 72.1 96% 59/82% 65/100% 137 4 3 111.6/62
Greenlaw 69.5 10% 52/72% 63/97% 21 1 1 47.4/15
D Fowles 74.3 15% STs  9/14% 29 0 0 98.5/11
M. Harris 47.7 31% DNP/IA DNP/IA 44 2 1 75.8/20
Robinson     STs/PS STs/PS        
Nzeocha     PS STs/PS        
                 
Campbell 84.3 97%     146 7 6 74.9/73
K. Barnes 51.3 52%     81 2 1 111/54
 

Shazeez Al-Shaair and his backup, Demetrius Flanigan-Fowles are the Sam linebackers.  Fred Warner is the Mike linebacker and has no obvious backup.  He played every down, essentially.  Dre Greenlaw and his backup, Marcell Harris, are the Will linebackers.  Greenlaw played in weeks 1 and 2, and then returned full-time for weeks 18 and 19.  The starters are good but the depth is non-existent.  2.41 linebackers play on average per snap. 

San Francisco desperately needed to win in weeks 18 and 19, so the snap counts for those weeks indicate who the team wanted on the field.  Despite the nice PFF grade, when San Francisco had to win, Flanigan-Fowles played just special teams in the playoff game and just 9 snaps in the final regular season game even though the starter, Al-Shaair, was inactive due to injury.  Flanigan-Fowles, a former UDFA, has been in the league since 2019.  Marcell Harris injured in achilles in practice prior to their week 18 game against the Rams and has not returned to the field.  Harris sports a 17% missed tackle percentage, which probably explains his terrible PFF grade.  He has a history of missed tackles.  He does have good coverage statistics this year, but they were terrible in 2018 through 2020.  His PFF grades have been in the forties in three of his four seasons.  It remains to be seen whether he will play.  

Fred Warner had an elite year in 2020 (All-Pro honors), but he came back to earth in 2021, playing more like he did in 2018 and 2019.  He is a quality player with sideline-to-sideline range.  He did miss some snaps against the Cowboys late in the game due to an ankle injury.  His passer rating allowed crept up.  He was targeted 62 times.  Dre Greenlaw was a 5th round godsend for San Francisco as he was able to start as a rookie back in 2019.  He is good in coverage and is a sure tackler.  In the absence of Greenlaw, Al-Shaazir, despite being unaccomstomed to the role, had to spend a good deal of time in coverage in 2021.  It could have been worse.  Al-Shaazir, a former UDFA from Florida Atlantic, is a little undersized for a Sam at 6'2" and 228 pounds.  His missed tackle percentage is okay.  Robinson and Nzeocha are practice squad members who were promoted since bodies were needed.

 

Player PFF Snap 19 18 T P QBh PR
Josh Norman 48.8 71% STs   49 0 0 111
E. Moseley 68.7 55% 100% 100% 42 0 0 65.6
Ambry Thomas 46.1 31% 100% 100% 23 0 0 118
D. Johnson 61.2 24% 10% 92% 30 3 0 106
D. Lenoir 57.1 22% IA   17 0 0 125
K. Williams 63.3 60% 86% IA 52 5 2 92
Dre Kirkpatrick 50.7 11% N/A N/A 7 0 0 130
jason Verrett 67.6 5.5% IR IR        
D. Dennard 68.0 2% IA 32% 3 0 0  
                 
J. Ward 77.6 92% 100% 100% 77 1 0 92.5
J. Tartt 62.3 67% 100% 60% 66 1 1 95.0
T. Hufanga 62.5 36% IA 3% 32 2 1 114
Tavon Wilson 57.7 10 IR IR 10 0 0 104
Jarrod Wilson     STs IA        
                 
Rasul Douglas 73.5       57 0 0 44.5
Adrian Amos 75.9       93 0 0 101

 

Emanuel Moseley missed six games but he plays every snap when he is healthy.  He is a sound player.  Ambry Thomas had been sitting behind Josh Norman, but Norman was so terrible that San Francisco put Thomas, a rookie third-round pick, on the field to sink or swim beginning in week 14.  He sunk for a while, but has been given better than average grades in his last three games by PFF.  San Francisco fans have described his growth as meteoric.  Thomas is still a rookie who has been up and down, so expect the Packers to test him.   Deommodore Lenoir is a fifth round rookie who has gotten some snaps this year, but he has fallen out of favor due to missed tackles and ineffectiveness.  I am not sure what happened to Lenoir in week 18: perhaps he was on the covid list that week.  He is still on the roster at any rate.  Dontae Johnson is an old pro who has bounced around the league, never being the guy.  He also has missed too many tackles.  K'Waun Williams is listed as a nickelback on the forty-niners website.  He missed essentially 4 games.  When he is healthy, he plays far more than the 60% of snaps listed in the table.  He is an old pro, slightly built, who has had issues with missed tackles over the years, though this year he has been adequate in that department.  Dre Kirkpatrick was released in week 10.  Darqueeze Dennard was called up from the practice squad and played 21 snaps in week 18.  His sample size is tiny.

jimmy Ward is the starting free safety.  He is a quality player.  He does not miss tackles and his coverage is pretty good.  Jarrod Wilson is listed as Ward's backup but has played just 8 snaps.  Jaquiski Tartt is the strong safety.  He has been an average to just above average starter for several years now.  His missed tackles are up a little this year, but that has not been a problem for him over the years.  He often plays every snap but has had games in the 60% range.  Tartt was limited all week for the week 18 game and was listed as questionable.  Talanoa Hufanga backs up Tartt.  He is not bad.  He started 3 games earlier when Tartt was out and filled in when he was returning from injuries.  

For context, the table lists Douglas and Amos.  I see nothing in the traditional statistics that explains the relatively low grade for Douglas.  His pass rating allowed is excellent and his missed tackle percentage (8.1%) is fine.  Amos' passer rating allowed crept up from 85.5 and 85.7 in 2019 and 2020 to 101.4 this year.  His missed tackles percentage (7.9%) is very respectable.  

Omenihu (41.8), Dontae Johnson (44.3) and Jimmie Ward (51.0) were the three lowest graded players against the Rams in week 18.  Ward bounced back against the Cowboys with a 72.9 grade, and cornerbacks Ambry Thomas and Moseley had grades of 73.4 and 69.7.  Jaquisti Tartt and Kentavius Street had rough day against the Cowboys according to PFF with grades of 48.6 and 50.9.

There you have it.  It is up to Matt LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett to devise ways to exploit the San Francisco defense.

 

 

 

2 points

Comments (13)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 19, 2022 at 12:59 am

This looks like playoff football. SF's defense is pretty good with no bad players starting. Edge is very good with lots of depth, and the DTs are very good, though the depth is more questionable. The 3 starting LBs are all good, though the depth is questionable. The CBs are okay, but not great. The FS is good and the SS is okay.

I lean towards pounding Dillon and Jones, especially up the middle. However, I suspect that the Packers will test CB Ambry Thomas, K'Waun Williams, and SS Tartt.

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Turophile's picture

January 19, 2022 at 04:15 am

The depth at most positions (except edge) tails off quickly, but the SF starters are mostly good. They rely plenty on sending just a 4 man rush and have the horses to make it work.

One of the key things in the next game is how the Packers new O line (with Myers, Bakhtiari and Turner all likely to return) manages to shake off the rust and deal with a formidable SF front 7.

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dobber's picture

January 19, 2022 at 05:11 am

I would argue by running the ball and a fair bit of play action.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 19, 2022 at 07:38 am

Indeed. This is a tough matchup. If their defensive weakness is lack of depth then long sustained drives are the answer. But if we can’t do that then we must simply outscore them and make Jimmy turn to his passing game where we have a good deep pass rush and good CB’s.

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murf7777's picture

January 19, 2022 at 09:21 am

TGR, thanks for this article, very informative! On paper, it sure seems like we have the better D, especially with Alexander, Z and Mercilus coming back.

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NickPerry's picture

January 19, 2022 at 05:26 am

Excellent job TGR. I think MLF is going to test the 49ers CB, especially who's playing the slot. Davante Adams has roasted the 49ers and I think we'll see a ton of that. BUT, I think LaFleur is going to pound Dillon, be creative with Jones, and bust the 49ers in the mouth with that running game.

It's payback day for the Packers and MLF. That 2019 NFCCG won't be what people remember, it's going to be Dillon wearing them down, and Jones ripping out that heart in the 4th quarter with a few Davante Adams daggers mixed it.

I'm watching Warner though. That dude seems to hit LATE all the time but never gets flagged.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 19, 2022 at 06:25 am

In week three, SF played CB Lenoir 45 snaps (71%) and CB Josh Norman 30 snaps (48%). Neither of those guys are likely to sniff the field, except probably on special teams. I do think AR and LaFleur test Ambry Thomas and Moseley is not a shut down guy by any means.

Interesting about Warner. I see he drew a flag once in 2021 for a 24 yard penalty. I gather PI?

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murf7777's picture

January 19, 2022 at 09:23 am

NP, wouldn’t be nice if we put on 150+ rushing yards against them? Pay back is a bitch!

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PatrickGB's picture

January 19, 2022 at 07:29 am

Like most Packer fans I love Douglas because of his story and his key interceptions. Yet as a CB he is simply an above average DB. Perhaps that is reflected in his score. Also his grade may include his time on the roster before he came to GB. Another thing I like about him is that, despite his less than stellar speed, he is sticky in coverage and savvy in coverages.

4 points
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murf7777's picture

January 19, 2022 at 09:28 am

I’ll take an above average CB with great instincts that Douglas shows. He might not have the best 40 time, but his game speed is better than most. I really like our DB’s going into the playoffs. I really don’t see much of a weakness in this defense, except depth at ILB. Let’s hope we don’t need to use much depth at that position.

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murf7777's picture

January 19, 2022 at 09:43 am

If I’m understanding your analysis correctly, I’m surprised by the high passer rating SF DB’s and LB’s have. That bodes well for Arod to take advantage of their lack of excellence in coverage. The key though is for our OL to give Arod the time to expose that. I sure miss having Tonyan as I think he would’ve thrived in this game. Hoping Deguara can fill some of the role effectively. Deguara doesn’t have the height to be a true TE so I suspect GB, as they have in the recent past, scheme differently without a true pass catching TE. That’s what makes MLF and his offensive coaches so good, they find ways to scheme players open.

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Turophile's picture

January 19, 2022 at 12:04 pm

One thing worth remembering @NickPerry, is that in the playoffs, the refs often try to allow more play (ie less 50/50 penalties called).

Its just another thing you have to adjust to quickly.................find that sweet spot.

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wildbill's picture

January 19, 2022 at 04:02 pm

A very physical defense that can get a good pass rush with four has always caused us issues, much like Tampa did last year. I only hope we get physical and don’t abandon the run game early if it’s not going well. And please don’t start the game four wide to “fool them” as that would play right in their hands. We have had more than one loss in MLF’s tenure where he panicked and became pass happy.

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