San Francisco 49ers: Top 5 storylines to watch over second half of 2019
By Peter Panacy
No. 5: How 49ers Mitigate Loss of Linebacker Kwon Alexander
Injuries have been a major theme behind the 49ers’ 2019 success. Unlike previous years, however, the Niners have largely absorbed losses of key players, such as Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey and Kyle Juszczyk.
But losing linebacker Kwon Alexander to a season-ending pectoral injury hurts in a lot of ways.
Exactly how the Niners figure out how to get by for the rest of the season without Alexander is something Niner Noise already broached. The likely plan is to rotate rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw from the SAM spot over to the weak side, where Alexander was playing. That opens up a hole at SAM, probably filled either by Mark Nzeocha or Azeez Al-Shaair.
Yet the bigger question is how the defense, particularly against the run, makes up as a whole for Alexander’s absence.
The 49ers are allowing an average of 4.7 yards per rush attempt, which ranks 22nd best in the league. Without Alexander, there is going to be increased pressure on second-year linebacker Fred Warner, who is still retaining his MIKE spot in the defense.
Warner is leading San Francisco with 48 tackles, yes. But according to Pro Football Focus, Warner’s run-stopping grade is a lowly 29.7.
It’s Warner, not Greenlaw, who’ll be under the most pressure to make up for Alexander’s loss.