The folks over at Pro Football Focus didn’t think too highly of the San Francisco 49ers secondary and its efforts in 2018, ranking this unit dead last after Week 17.
PFF dished out defensive backfield rankings after the conclusion of the regular season. To little surprise, the Niners secondary came in ranked No. 32 out of all 32 teams.
Here’s what PFF had to say about the placement:
Richard Sherman’s presence could only do so much to prop up the league’s worst unit. The free agent corner only allowed 25 catches in 14 games this season, but injuries and a ton of busted coverages are why they still sit at the bottom. Eleven other players besides Sherman received at least 100 snaps in the secondary, and none graded higher than 66.7 overall.
Yes, cornerback Richard Sherman was particularly effective shutting down his side of the field. That said, zero 49ers cornerbacks recorded an interception on the year (including Sherman), and San Francisco as a whole had just two picks on the year.
Additionally, a number of second-year players regressed. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Adrian Colbert were supposed to assume vital roles on defense. Yet neither lived up to the level of play shown during their rookie 2017. Both landed on injured reserve, too.
Injuries certainly can bear a lot of the blame for the secondary woes. As KNBR 680’s Brad Almquist pointed out, the Niners employed eight different players at safety last year. For those looking for continuity, this isn’t the way to go about it.
On top of that, a secondary’s job is made much more difficult if there’s a lack of an effective pass rush, which was the case for San Francisco in 2018.
The 49ers finished the year with 37 sacks, tied for 22nd in the league. The longer an opposing quarterback has time in the pocket, the better the chances his receiving targets will have at getting open. It’s Football 101, really. And the Niners are missing a vital defensive component.
Anyway, San Francisco’s secondary will experience some changes this upcoming season, particularly after defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley left the squad to take over defensive coordinator duties at Ohio State at the start of 2019.
A fresh face might help. But so would staying healthy and relying a little more on a pass rush. Maybe then, PFF’s rankings wind up increasing a bit.