Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports


49ers safety Adrian Colbert embracing competition, trying to return to the fundamentals

May 30, 2019 at 7:00 AM--


Adrian Colbert is finding himself in a very different situation than last offseason when he was the man to beat for the starting free safety job. A year later, he is competing for playing time.

Colbert is embracing the challenge.

"It's fun," he told reporters on Wednesday. "As an athlete, as a competitor, you just love the feeling of competition. We're all competing for that one common goal, and I think it's going to make all of us better."

After a strong rookie campaign, the then-second-year safety found himself among several San Francisco 49ers players seemingly stuck in a sophomore slump. Dealing with injuries didn't help the situation. Colbert tried to work his way through hamstring and hip injuries before finally succumbing to a high-ankle sprain which landed him on injured reserve in October.

Colbert refuses to use injuries as an excuse. After all, he felt he was healthy enough to contribute on the football field.

"I checked in," Colbert said. "I told everybody I was good, so if you step on that field, you've got to perform the way you're expected to perform."

Colbert finished 2018 with 21 combined tackles and a pass defensed through seven games and six starts. His overall Pro Football Focus grade saw a drop from a respectable 73.1 in 2017 to an abysmal 31.7 in 2018. In fact, he saw declines in several categories, including run defense, tackling, and coverage. Colbert gave up four touchdowns in fewer coverage snaps in 2018 compared to the one he gave up the year before.

It wasn't the sophomore outing the former seventh-round draft pick was hoping to have. To what does Colbert attribute the fall-off? He wasn't playing like himself. Colbert was trying to be something or someone he wasn't.

"I watched a lot of tape of a whole bunch of different safeties that ran the Cover 3 the same way we do or similar to us," Colbert explained. "I saw a lot of them playing really aggressive, cutting things."

Colbert was trying to mimic those other players hoping he could produce the same results. It had the opposite effect, and his new defensive backs coach noticed.

"I watched Colbert, every single snap, the first thing I did when I got here," said Joe Woods, who also serves as a defensive passing game coordinator. "What happened, you look at the tape the year before, and he was sitting back playing his technique. Then last year, he started pressing, trying to make plays, trying to come out of the post, and that's the worst thing you can do as a secondary player is try to press to make plays regardless of the situation.

"I think for Colbert and for [Ahkello Witherspoon], that's what they both tried to do and they put themselves in bad situations. They've just got to go out there and do the best they can to make the plays they're supposed to make, period."

Colbert is feeling healthier and stronger now. In addition to gaining weight and going from 195 pounds to 210, he is also spending this offseason focusing on the fundamentals of the defensive scheme. Colbert does not concern himself with trying to do too much.

You can watch Colbert speak to reporters below, courtesy of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Grant Cohn.



You can watch Woods speak to reporters below.






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