Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Sherman now sees similarities between the 49ers defense and the ‘Legion of Boom’

Aug 5, 2019 at 11:00 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers defense's roots are influenced by the former "Legion of Boom" in Seattle. It has evolved since the building blocks were put in place in 2017. The unit will utilize the Wide 9 more often, depending on what the offense is throwing at the 49ers.

Cornerback Richard Sherman was part of the "Legion of Boom" in its heyday. That's what made the transition to the 49ers so easy for him, even without a full offseason last year. It's not going out on a limb saying even though San Francisco wanted something that mimicked what the Seahawks had done, it didn't have the personnel in place to successfully do so.

That might be changing.

Sherman sat down with Rhett Lewis and James Jones of NFL Network during "Inside Training Camp Live" on Saturday and was asked how this year's defense compares to those he played on while in Seattle.

"I see similarities now, obviously, with all the pass rushers we have now, all the talent we have up front," Sherman responded. "The linebackers are versatile. They can run, they can cover. And then in the backend, we've got tall, rangy corners. We've got Jason Verrett now, who's very versatile. K'Waun (Williams) is a great slot (corner), and we've got a hitter in the strong safety box.

"So I think we're going to be similar. Obviously, schematically, it's similar, but we'll see. We've got to be consistent. We've had some really good days out here. You've got to stack them, though, as you know."

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman shares why the pass rushers will make a big impact

Among the offseason upgrades are pass rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa. The 49ers envision those two as bookends on the defensive line with Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner continuing to force pressure up the middle. All three of those defenders are former first-round picks, and San Francisco has two more in Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas.

An improved pass rush means the defensive backs and others in coverage won't have to worry about keeping up with opposing receiving targets as long.

"It does make a huge difference," Sherman said. "No slight to anybody else that came before but these guys are getting to the passer, and they're putting pressure, making the quarterback uncomfortable in his footwork. So they are airing passes, they're off their back foot, they're not putting it exactly where they want it to be. So that gives DBs a chance.

"[As a result, r]eceivers are frustrated because receivers are getting out of their breaks on time and the ball's late, or the ball's early, or the ball's two yards in front of them, or two yards behind them. It all makes a difference, especially throughout a 70-play game."

General manager John Lynch is hoping the improved pass rush will result in more turnovers this season, where the 49ers ranked last in the league in 2018.

"I think, more than anything, in my career, turnovers happen when you're hitting the quarterback," Lynch told Lewis and Jones on Saturday. "I really believe we're going to be able to do that. That speeds up the clock of those quarterbacks, makes them throw a tick early. As a defensive back, you can take some chances."

"That's the thought process. Now, we've got to go do it."

It isn't just the defensive front that is capable of setting the tone in a game. Sherman says linebackers Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander are tone-setters, as well. Warner now has a year of experience under his belt.

Added Sherman, "I think Kwon has brought an element of speed and just understanding. There's nothing like having a smart football player, a guy who understands what's going on, can get to the spots, can beat guys to the spot, and can predict things."

Back on the topic of Verrett, Sherman has been impressed by the cornerback who is now healthy. The 49ers signed Verrett to a one-year deal after five injury-plagued years with the Chargers.

"He's looked great," Sherman said of Verrett. "Every day he's looking better. Today (Saturday), he looked incredibly sharp."

Sherman went on to point out that Verrett has been holding his own against the team's fastest player and one of the fastest players in the NFL, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.

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