No. 2: Is Linebacker Depth a Problem?
Linebacker Fred Warner should go to the Pro Bowl after this season. While he wasn’t too high on the tackling list in Week 14, boasting only two solo takedowns, he did manage a key pass breakup, showcasing his excellent pass-coverage skills.
That said, the 49ers are sorely missing one of their other top linebackers, Kwon Alexander, who is out with a pectoral injury.
Warner missed a tackle on Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith’s fourth-quarter touchdown, but that wasn’t the biggest gaffe from this group. Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw had his up-and-down moments, but the biggest liability from this group was also-rookie Azeez Al-Shaair, who was also targeted by Drew Brees along with Marcell Harris early in the game.
Al-Shaair, the undrafted free agent, has been asked to handle a lot of the strong-side coverage duties, and it’s becoming fairly clear he’s not totally up to the challenge at this point early in his career.
Given the relative lack of other options, though, one has to wonder how the Niners try to cover up this depth shortcoming.