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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Why 49ers Nick Bosa appears “sluggish” through two games

Chris Beno
Sep 19, 2023 at 9:30 AM--

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After missing this year's OTA's and Training Camp in a hold out effort for a new contract, San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Defensive End Nick Bosa finally became the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, just days before the team's week one matchup against the Pittsburg Steelers. Bosa signed a five-year $170 million extension with the team.

It's easy to say Bosa's slow start in that week one matchup was due to his holdout and lack of football activity with the team this offseason. However, to say that sluggishness carried over into their week two matchup against their division rival Los Angeles Rams isn't entirely true. Far too often players (especially defensive players) are critiqued on stats alone. While stats help players earn end of the year accolades, they don't necessarily paint the whole picture.

Think back to when the 49ers first acquired veteran CB Richard Sherman. Early on Sherman was catching heat for his lack of interceptions. However, upon closer look the only reason why he wasn't getting those picks was because he had receivers locked up which prevented QBs from even throwing his direction. Stats don't paint the full picture.

That was the case with Bosa on Sunday against the Rams. Although Bosa didn't come away with any sacks, he still lead the team in QB hits and QB pressures. The only sack of the day came on a LB blitz from Fred Warner. The lack of pressure on Rams QB Matthew Stafford isn't an indictment of the 49ers defensive front, but more the lazy soft zone coverage of the secondary.

The soft coverage allowed Stafford to get rid of the ball quickly and underneath the secondary virtually all game long, until the 49ers made second half adjustments playing more man coverage. Typically, you see a softer zone coverage for speedy receivers like Miami Dolphins Tyreek Hill who has a 4.29 40-yard dash time.

A more aggressive look from the secondary forces Stafford to hold onto the ball a little longer giving the 49ers pass rush more time for the sack. Getting the ball out quick and underneath coverage eliminates the pass rush.

It is worth noting that once the 49ers made second half adjustments in the secondary, the defense forced two interceptions from Stafford; one in the 3rd quarter and the other in the 4th quarter.

The decision to play soft zone coverage the first half could be and indication that new Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks doesn't have the utmost trust in his secondary. He seemed to be ok with giving the Rams all they wanted underneath as long as it prevented the big play. The problem is it kept the Rams in the game.

The 49ers secondary placed 2nd year CB Samuel Womack III on IR after suffering an MCL injury. 3rd year CB Ambry Thomas was attacked by the Rams offense for much of the first half before being replaced by veteran CB Isaiah Oliver. It's also worth noting that the 49ers brought in former first round pick and verteran CB Bradley Roby for a workout.

One thing the 49ers have done in the past to hide the shortcomings in the secondary is get after the opposing QB with a strong defensive front. It'll be interesting to see what defensive adjustments are made going forward to ensure that the strength of this defense including reinging Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa get back to what they do best, which is sacking the QB.
  • Chris Beno
  • Written by:
    Coming from Elk Grove, California I grew up a Bay Area sports fan. I've been cheering for the 49ers for as long as I can remember. In 2005 I joined the Army when I was 18 and got stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I just kind of hung around here. I've always enjoyed writing and have typically focus on writing music. I am truly blessed to get to cover the 49ers, and have my articles published on the 49ers Webzone. I appreciate all of the Faithful that take the time to read the articles that myself and other contributors put out there. The 49ers have without a doubt the best fanbase, and best content creators around.
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