Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Donte Whitner on 49ers defense: Nobody out there should panic

Sep 14, 2021 at 2:43 PM--

Former San Francisco 49ers safety, and current football analyst, Donte Whitner, joined Greg Papa and John Lund on KNBR Radio on Monday to discuss the 49ers recent win over the Detroit Lions.

In light of the season-ending injury sustained by Jason Verrett, there was plenty to discuss, especially surrounding the 49ers defense. But fear not, Whitner doesn't seem overly concerned with the 49ers defense, even though it had its share of problems, even before Verrett's injury.

Whitner views newcomer cornerback Josh Norman as a good signing who will play better in zone coverage than how he played in man coverage in recent years. But Whitner said it takes new players time to adjust and to build chemistry with his new teammates, due to communication issues that may arise in certain situations, like bunch formations, motion, shifts, etc. Whitner suggested Norman will probably be used more in "spot duty," like in nickel packages. He did not sound optimistic about Norman coming in and starting, especially early on.

Whitner said he expects to see Deommodore Lenoir or Dontae Johnson starting at corner, opposite Emmanuel Moseley, should Moseley come back this week in Philadelphia. Overall, he liked what he saw from Lenoir, who was targeted five times, giving up only one reception in his debut. Said Whitner, "That tells me the game wasn't too big for him."

However, he said it can be different when the other team knows you'll be out there and actually prepares for you. Whitner said, "When you go into a game early in the week, the coaching staff knows that you're going to be out there, they can prepare for you, they can attack your weaknesses, they know that you're a young guy, then that's when he'll get tested. So we'll so how it goes moving forward."

Papa asked Whitner what he saw regarding how the Lions were able to gash the 49ers defense on the ground in the first half. Whitner answered, "What I saw was bad eyes, from the nickelback, from all the interior linebackers. And what I mean by that is, whenever you have five offensive linemen and a tight end, that's six guys. They're motioning and creating other gaps on the opposite side of the ball when they bring a tackle or a guard back, and they bring the tight end back, you have to go back and flow over the top. You can't step up into the defensive line, get caught up in the mess, giving offensive linemen angles to create other gaps. So that's all it is. It's an easy fix."

He said if the nickelback and linebackers will use their eyes and let the pulling guard and tight end take them to the ball, it's an easy thing to correct. He believes that was the only problem the 49ers had on Sunday against the run.

He continued, "They were a little too overzealous in the beginning of the game, too aggressive stepping up and giving that offensive lineman better angles. That's all it is. So nobody out there should panic."

Whitner was also pleased with what he saw from edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. He said their effort was "tremendous." He commented on how Bosa didn't look quite as explosive, but that's to be expected, coming off the injury he had last season. But Whitner said Bosa's effort was "phenomenal."

Whitner also commented that Ford "looked really good...quick...fresh."
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