No. 1: Linebacker Kwon Alexander
It should come as little surprise the balance of these impressive performances leans toward the defensive side of the football, seeing as the 49ers defense is the reason they stayed in the game on Sunday.
And through two-plus games so far as a 49er, linebacker Kwon Alexander is looking more and more like a bargain signing, no matter what the free-agent price tag might have been.
More from Niner Noise
- 49ers 2023 NFL Draft tracker: Pick-by-pick news and analysis
- Predicting 49ers NFL Draft picks by looking at final mocks
- DraftKings NFL Draft Promo – Win $150 Guaranteed on Any $5 Bet
- 2023 NFL Draft: EDGE Byron Young could be impact player for 49ers
- 5 low-key NFL Draft options for 49ers who are flying under the radar
The former Buccaneer has been flying around the field since his first snap with the team, and has, with fellow linebacker Fred Warner, helped clean up the middle of the defense.
Something that’s a key element of defensive success in today’s NFL.
Alexander ended Sunday’s game with seven more tackles, including one for loss, and featured on 98 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps. He has quickly become a stalwart for the defense, and is the answer for most of the more difficult questions the team has to answer about the opposition’s offense.
In this case, it was Steelers running back James Connor who, after a breakout season last year, has essentially disappeared in 2019, including on Sunday. Alexander helped the 49ers defensive front hold Connor to just 43 yards on 13 carries, and the linebacker was key in keeping the running back down in the passing game, where Connor had just four catches for 14 yards.
The 49ers success for 2019 is going to, in large part, hinge on how well the defense continues to play, especially if the offense is going to remain so hot-then-cold throughout the year.
And with that pass rush combining with the top-notch play of Alexander behind them, that’s looking more and more likely each week.