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49ers vs. Packers: DeForest Buckner sees a big opportunity in facing Aaron Rodgers

Oct 11, 2018 at 5:31 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner burst out of the gate this season with 3.5 sacks in his first two games. Buckner has remained a force along the defensive front but has been unable to get to the quarterback since his single-sack performance against the Detroit Lions.

While some may see facing Aaron Rodgers as an overwhelming challenge, Buckner sees it as an opportunity. The Green Bay Packers quarterback is holding onto the football for an average of 2.68 seconds before getting it out of his hands, according to Pro Football Focus. That is the seventh-highest amount of time among quarterbacks currently starting and longer than any signal caller the 49ers defense has faced this season.

Rodgers has already been sacked 16 times this season. Only three quarterbacks (Josh Allen — 19, Deshaun Watson — 18, Russell Wilson — 18) have been brought down more.

The difference between Rodgers and other quarterbacks this season may be a fraction of a second, but it may just be enough for Buckner and the 49ers defense to make an impact. Rodgers is also dealing with an ailing left knee, which will likely make him less of a mobile threat.

"He definitely holds onto the ball, looking downfield to make those big plays, so we definitely have some opportunities compared to last week with Rosen getting the ball out too quick," Buckner said before Thursday's practice. "It's definitely an opportunity for us guys up front to help out the guys on the back end, for sure."

The 49ers defense has spent the week studying Rodgers' mannerisms and how long he waits for plays to develop.

"He's definitely trying to make big plays and make things happen, extend plays," Buckner continued. "Up front, it's definitely a big opportunity."

While Buckner said the defense is trying to come up with ways to make Rodgers uncomfortable on Monday night, head coach Kyle Shanahan knows that a banged up Rodgers is still a dangerous foe.

"He's still the best or is tied for the best on the planet," Shanahan told reporters on Thursday. "He always has been. He's the man. I know he's not 100-percent, everyone knows that, but he seems to be a little bit better each week. He's still the best."

The 49ers defense brought Rosen down just once on Sunday. It was Cassius Marsh who got to the rookie quarterback. Buckner feels like he was close to getting to Rosen several times.

"I definitely had him in my arms a couple of times," Buckner said. "He just didn't want to get hit. He was just throwing the ball into the dirt or out of bounds. Sometimes there are games like that, and you've just got to keep up the pressure."

The 49ers defense has just nine sacks this season, which is tied at No. 24 in the NFL. Only six teams have fewer sacks than San Francisco.

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