Understanding Reuben Foster’s Impact

James LeBreton
Jun 5, 2017 at 3:13 PM

Last year the 49ers defense ranked dead last. With a new coordinator and a new scheme, the team will attempt to get back to its winning ways. Here's why the addition of Reuben Foster pulls it all together.

Admit it, you loved this pick. In fact, you loved this pick so much that if you were skeptical on Solomon Thomas with pick number three, the selection of Rueben Foster more than softened the blow. He's compensation in trade for three miserable seasons, and the redemption you've been seeking since the retirement of Patrick Willis. To put it plainly, just adding his name to the current roster puts every linebacker except NaVorro Bowman on notice. Foster was a steal at pick number 31. However, had he been selected in the top five, he still would've been the talk of the draft. Keeping that in mind, let's analyze his importance to the team, and the impact he will have on the Bay Area franchise.

He eases the tension on NaVorro Bowman

When the man they nicknamed Monster first stepped on the field as a 49er, his ceiling was endless for two reasons. Reason number one was his outstanding ability. From day one, Bowman has played like an All-Pro. His game-changing ways present his fellow teammates with the competition they need to strive for better results. When you operate around someone who has an endless motor and a knack for making the big plays, you can't help but work harder. The second point requires a bit more reasoning.

In two years at Penn State, Bow teamed up with two other All-Pro linebackers to form one of the best trios in school history. Though he had the potential to lead a defense, the three-man operation worked more soundly as a unit. They led their team to an impressive 13-3 conference record while compiling a respectable overall two-year total of 22-4. Once drafted by San Francisco, he continued his reign as one-half of the best duos in his sport. In four full seasons, Bowman received some of the greatest on-the-job training any linebacker could ever hope for.

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Now fast forward two full NFL seasons later. The defense has played 32 games without Patrick Willis, and Bowman has suffered his second traumatic injury in just four years. There's no doubt that NaVorro can lead this team, but without the proper help, he puts added pressure on his body leaving himself at a greater risk for injury. Without fluency at his position, Bow is essentially covering more than one position.

Through free agency and the NFL Draft, the 49ers have added significant strength to the linebacker position. The most significant being the addition of inside man Reuben Foster. The Alabama prospect should do more than reduce Bowman's risk of injury, he should elevate Bowman's production by allowing him to roam free.

He brings excitement back to the defense

Foster is an every-down linebacker who can cover the entire field from sideline to sideline. He tracks you down like a heat seeking missile and tackles you to the ground with an unforgiving brutal force. In 39 collegiate games at Alabama, Foster compiled 211 total tackles, 23 of them for a loss, seven quarterback sacks and nine passes defended. He's shown his dominance against the run by leading all FBS linebackers in run-stop percentage. He's also proved his effectiveness against the pass with a coverage grade of 86.5, according to Pro Football Focus.

In fact, the only thing more impressive than his coverage against the pass and run is his strong show of athleticism. In 93 snaps as a senior, Foster put up 22 hurries against the quarterback. Last year, the 49er defense gave up one of the highest passing touchdown totals (30), while acquiring one of the lowest interception totals (10). Even worse, it ranked dead last against the run. As a unit, it allowed 165.9 rushing yards-per-game and a league worst 4.8 average yards-per-carry.

At season's end, it's the job of the coaching staff to outline the team's shortcomings and address those needs in the upcoming draft. In most cases, it can be tough finding three specialists to cover three areas of need. The addition of Reuben Foster handles all three of those needs with one selection.

Time is on his side

Regardless of his issue at the Combine or the chatter over dilute samples, Rueben Foster was the best linebacker available from this year's draft. In 2016, the 49ers' thinnest area on the roster was at the linebacker position. To say that the meeting between Foster and the team's brass was meant to be would be right on the money. For him to be considered this dominant, at only 23 years of age, is a rarity. He also fell right into the lap of the franchise late in the first round.

Barring any complications in his career, Foster could bring stability for over a decade to a position that was anything but stable last year. Nonetheless, he's young, he's content to be a 49er and he's a day one starter. When rebuilding a team it's imperative that you find that one player who is easy to build around.

Because of his positional dominance and his incredible versatility, with which he can play in any defensive scheme, Foster is that building block. The scary part for opposing offenses is that, theoretically, he's only going to get better as the years progress.

If you're John Lynch or Kyle Shanahan, that has to be a great feeling.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Marty
    Under Saleh defense Bowman & Forster will not be running all over the field. Everyone has a gag. If everyone does their job Bowman will have less tackles. Thus the number of collision will drop in each game. Same thing for Forster. It should help them during the course of the season. This front seven should be exciting to watch.
    Jun 12, 2017 at 12:46 PM
  • Jon
    No one understands his impact as he hasn't had one yet. Please take a little more time with your titles As that would indicate that you are really thinking about what you are writing. It would have made a lot more sense to have called this Anticipating Reuben Foster's impact
    Jun 9, 2017 at 9:09 PM
  • Niner
    How about letting him play, become a starter and making a rookie team before you shower him with accolades. Last year the top 2 linebackers dropped due to injuries. Other teams arent stupid, his injuries could keep him from reaching his potential.
    Jun 5, 2017 at 11:38 PM
  • Tim
    yeah... its Navorro
    Jun 5, 2017 at 9:50 PM
  • Monsterniner
    Isn´t he NaVorro and not Navarro?
    Jun 5, 2017 at 7:27 PM

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