Worry: The Defense Will Be Bad, Inexperienced or Both
Ask any 49ers fan what the No. 1 problem was for San Francisco last year, and he or she will respond with the defense.
The Niners’ historically bad 2016 defense ranked dead last in both points (480) and yards allowed (6,502) last season. This group couldn’t stop the run, was susceptible to the pass and lacked elite playmaking talent. Turnovers were almost nonexistent too.
Sure, head coach Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense is gone. That will help matters, at least in time of possession. And former defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil’s read-and-react defense is out the window as well. That’s another boost.
Still, the Niners lack talent on this side of the ball.
Cornerback is just one issue. Outside of likely safety Jimmie Ward, linebacker NaVorro Bowman and defensive end DeForest Buckner, there aren’t a lot of noteworthy players.
And Robert Saleh? This is his first go-around as defensive coordinator. There’s bound to be a learning curve.
All this points to the necessity of adding defensive talent via the NFL Draft.
But these players will undergo a learning curve as well. In most cases, it will take a year or two to fully acclimate to life at the NFL level.
That could mean some ugly defensive performances by San Francisco this season as the team learns to adjust.