San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil spoke to the media today. "I do see this thing turning," he said of the 49ers poor performances this season. "The reason I can say that? We got a group of men – coaches and players included – who are thumb pointers. They're not finger pointers. And any time you have that in a locker room, anytime you have that with your staff, it gives you a chance to grow and to get better every day you come into work."
Through six games, the 49ers defense ranks 27th in the league in total yards allowed, 31st in points allowed, and dead last in rushing yards allowed. While the 49ers simply do not have the personnel to succeed, a lot of the blame for the poor defensive performances have been placed squarely on O'Neil's shoulders.
O'Neil was asked about the intensity of his players in the second half of games, which is typically when things go very wrong for the 49ers. "Coach [Chip Kelly] talked to the team about it this morning," O'Neil answered. "As a team, we're in it, we're in it, we're in it, we're in it, and something bad happens. Whether it is a turnover or the game gets a little bit away from us. I don't know if we relax a little bit as a team. We just got to be consistent for four quarters because we're competitive in all of these games and then something happens and two or three series go by and then you look up at the scoreboard and you're like, 'What the hell just happened?'
Jim O'Neil said that he is embarrassed by Sunday's performance, but believes in Kelly's plan. #49ers— 49erswebzone (@49erswebzone) October 18, 2016
So I just think that's where we have to grow as a team. I think that some of that is being probably young and learning how to be consistent for four quarters. We got to do a good job coaching them on how to do that. That's probably our biggest problem right now, if you ask me."
O'Neil acknowledges that they have a lot of guys that don't have a lot of NFL experience but are not pointing fingers. He also recognized that Nick Bellore and Michael Wilhoite were probably out there too much against the Buffalo Bills and, moving forward, we will see Gerald Hodges play more. "He needs to play more," O'Neil said. "He does."
O'Neil said that the coaching staff felt really good about what they had at linebacker during the offseason and there was no concern on his part about not adding a linebacker via the draft or free agency. The injuries to NaVorro Bowman and Ray-Ray Armstrong were unexpected and they just had to roll with what they have.
Why is Bellore playing over Hodges? "Hodges has never been trained as Mike linebacker," O'Neil said. "The only inside linebacker that we have trained at both has been Mike Wilhoite, so he's a guy that could swing for us."
Our own Al Sacco pointed out today that the 49ers are on pace to give up 2,789 yards rushing, which would be the most since the Houston Oilers gave up 2,814 in 1985.