Top 49ers Defenders: Nos. 10-6
There are a lot of players who deserve some recognition, yet still fall off the list of top 10 defenders through the first six weeks.
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley has performed well in the place of the injured Ahkello Witherspoon, who’ll be out at least until the end of the month. Moseley hasn’t played enough to warrant consideration here, and neither has defensive back Jimmie Ward.
Ward, however, was instrumental in holding the Rams to a combined 0-of-13 mark on third- and fourth-down attempts in Week 6, however.
Defensive end Ronald Blair has been a solid reserve, so he gets a hat tip, too.
Witherspoon barely cracks this list, as his sprained foot has limited him to just three games.
Those three games, however, were impressive. Witherspoon ranks second on the team with five pass breakups and has all but silenced all the concerns the 49ers would need a long-term solution at cornerback opposite the veteran, Richard Sherman.
Having a pick-six touchdown, recorded back in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, can’t be overlooked, either.
He might not be getting the credit he deserves. But strong safety Jaquiski Tartt is quietly putting together one of the better seasons seen from him since being drafted in Round 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Tartt is tied for fifth on the defense with 20 tackles, and he has been one of the most reliable tacklers on a dominant Niners defense.
He’s a primary reason San Francisco is averaging just 4.1 yards per rush, too.
The defensive captain of this side of the ball, second-year linebacker Fred Warner, can’t be left off this list for obvious reasons.
For starters, he’s leading the defense with 31 tackles, which include two for a loss, has a forced fumble and has been excellent in coverage all season. Pro Football Focus has awarded him a solid 67.4 grade in this particular category.
It’s pretty obvious Sherman isn’t plagued by the 2017 Achilles injury he suffered with the Seattle Seahawks, which hampered him a bit last year.
Sherman has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 54.2 percent of the passes thrown his way, which has equated to a passer rating of only 46.4 — best in San Francisco’s secondary.
On top of that, Sherman’s six pass breakups ranks first among a pass defense, which has allowed the fewest yards per game in the entire league.
Oh, and he has two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, too.
It’s a bit odd not putting Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in the top five. But that speaks to the depth of the 49ers’ strongest unit, the defensive line.
Buckner’s traditional stats are just fine. He’s currently ranked third on the team with 21 tackles, and he’s tied for second with EDGE Nick Bosa with three sacks.
Don’t let the lowish placement on these power rankings fool you, though. Buckner has been one of the better interior disruptors in the league, freeing up San Francisco’s edge rushers to compile up the sack totals and quarterback hits.