No. 3: Linebacker Dre Greenlaw
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw is a young fifth-round rookie whose rise to the starting strong-side linebacker position has been wonderful to watch. Greenlaw is athletic and has terrific pursuit. He finished with four tackles, including a sack.
However, Greenlaw had to come into the game and play at the WILL (weak-side linebacker) position when Kwon Alexander left the game with an injury.
From there, things went downhill.
The Cardinals game plan focused extensively on mitigating the 49ers pass rush. The ball was flying out of quarterback Kyler Murray‘s hands within a second, or maybe two. The biggest way the Cardinals did this was through screens. Greenlaw was baited multiple times on screens, allowing running back Kenyan Drake to break free.
On screen passes, the onus is on the linebackers to read the play and not get drawn in. That’s not where Greenlaw excels, and it showed. Although he played the run decently well, he overextended on plays there as well, just as the entire defense did.
I may be placing criticism of the entire defense on Greenlaw. But from what I saw, the young rookie was in the wrong place at the wrong time quite a bit, as the defense fell apart in the second half.
If Greenlaw is to be thrusted in a greater role, he needs to improve on Thursday’s performance.