Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers-Lions: Kyle Shanahan discusses plan for Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, explains Josh Norman signing

Sep 9, 2021 at 6:44 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers defense should be much improved with the returns of edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Both are coming off significant injuries, missing most of last season. Ford appeared in just one game before a back injury sidelined him. Bosa's 2020 campaign ended with an ACL injury during Week 2.

Earlier this week, Ford said he expects to be on a pitch count during Sunday's regular-season opener against the Detroit Lions. That's not uncommon for players coming off an injury, and the veteran pass rusher hasn't been an every-down player during his time with the 49ers, even when he was healthier. Instead, Ford mostly went onto the field during situational downs, like obvious passing plays.

"Like any injury, we're going to start with a pitch count, a standard for any injury," Ford said. "My role is to do what they brought me here to do—make big plays."

Pro Football Focus ranked Ford in the top 10 in win percentage during pass-rush snaps. His PRP, a formula that combines sacks, hits, and hurries relative to how many times they rush the passer, was among the top three. Bosa, then a rookie, was in the top five in PRP. They made a formidable pair.

What's the plan for the 49ers' pass-rushing bookends on Sunday against Detroit? San Francisco's head coach clarified that he doesn't have a pitch count for them. How Ford and Bosa are used has more to do with the game plan against quarterback Jared Goff and the Lions.

"I don't plan on having a pitch count with guys," Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday. "You plan on guys, who you don't play every single play and use them in packages, but there's only so many people up on game day. So the numbers are never set in stone.

"You have goals with how many times you plan on being in personnel groupings and stuff like that, but it's not like the preseason where you say this guy has eight plays and he's out or this guy has 15. It's whatever you have to do to win the game and what you have with your eligibles and packages."

Shanahan has been pleased with what he's seen from Ford and Bosa during training camp. The team has been cautious with both, limiting them throughout the offseason. That will finally change on Sunday.

"But those guys have been on pace to get to this game and play at a high level," Shanahan continued. "And I love how they've looked in training camp. And hopefully, they'll continue, have three good days of practice, and have a good game on Sunday."

Wednesday represented the first time Shanahan spoke with reporters since the team signed veteran cornerback Josh Norman. The signing could be significant if Emmanuel Moseley cannot play on Sunday. According to the head coach, Moseley is dealing with a knee injury.

Norman offers some insurance and depth at the position, and his veteran experience should help him get acclimated quickly. However, the 49ers coach doesn't expect Norman to jump right in and look like he's been with the team for all of training camp.

"This will be Josh's second practice, so we'll see how he goes throughout the week," Shanahan said before Wednesday's practice. "Whether he feels comfortable with learning the stuff and where he is, physically, with just not being in camp very long."

So, why the decision to add Norman to the roster?

"Just played against him a bunch," Shanahan explained. "So I've got a ton of respect for how talented he is, but I've got a ton of respect for how he plays the game. He's a guy who has never shied away from tackling. He has no problem going up there and jamming guys.

"He's a smart player who's hard to get the big play on. And just the way he's competed wherever he's been, started in Carolina to Washington. I was watching him a lot on tape at Buffalo last year, and I'm pumped to have him here."

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