Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football Focus ranks 49ers linebackers as a top-10 unit

Jul 21, 2020 at 7:04 AM--

Pro Football Focus analyst Steve Palazzolo continued the site's unit-ranking series, this time focusing on the best linebacker groups in the NFL.

"The NFL's best linebacking corps have both high-end players and depth, and that's what we leaned on when putting together this ranking," wrote Palazzolo.

While the Seattle Seahawks' group came in at No. 1, Palazzolo has the San Francisco 49ers' linebackers listed at No. 10.

He notes that general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have revamped the group since taking over the team in 2017. It now features a rising defensive star in Fred Warner, but Palazzolo believes there is room for improvement for the young linebacker.

"Fred Warner has emerged as one of the better coverage linebackers in the league in his two seasons but needs to cut down on his 37 missed tackles, the sixth-highest total during that time," wrote Palazzolo. "Warner's 74.5 coverage grade ranked 11th last year, and he has 14 pass breakups and two interceptions in his young career."

Kwon Alexander missed the second half of last season due to a torn pectoral muscle but returned for the 49ers' playoff and Super Bowl run. He was limited to 423 snaps in 2019.

"Alexander is another rangy, middle-of-the-field defender who usually grades well in coverage," noted Palazzolo. "However, he has tackling issues of his own, missing 13 of his 46 attempts last year to form the worst rate in the league."

Then you have Dre Greenlaw, the Week 17 star who, as a rookie, stopped a potential game-winning play at the goal line by the Seattle Seahawks and lifted the 49ers to a division championship.

"One of the unsung heroes of the 49ers' Super Bowl run was 2019 fifth-rounder Dre Greenlaw, who stepped in with a 72.6 coverage grade that ranked 15th in the league while missing only four tackles including the playoffs," wrote Palazzolo.

San Francisco in March added Joe Walker, signing the former Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals linebacker to a one-year deal.

"Joe Walker joins the 49ers to add depth after grading out at 46.2 on 537 snaps for the Cardinals last season," notes Palazzolo.

The analyst goes on to point out that the 49ers have one of the best groups of coverage linebackers in the league. The unit just needs to cut down on mistakes, including missed tackles, to reach its potential.

As for the remaining two NFC West groups, the Arizona Cardinals' linebackers sit at No. 17 while the Los Angeles Rams came in dead last at No. 32.

Click here to read the entire feature over at Pro Football Focus.

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