The Niners were notably top-heavy at linebacker entering the season but were nevertheless hoping the combination of Dre Greenlaw and All-Pro Fred Warner would be enough to toe the line, while No. 3 linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair would be a quality fill-in piece.
Warner’s 75 tackles currently rank 11th among all NFL defenders this season and easily in the team lead there. But he also hasn’t quite been at his usual All-Pro self, perhaps as a result of some of the defensive scheme changes implemented by first-year coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
Greenlaw, meanwhile, suffered a serious groin injury back in Week 1 after logging one of the two San Francisco interceptions on the season and has been out ever since, forcing Al-Shaair into a prominent role. And while Al-Shaair, a former undrafted free agent is having arguably the best season of his pro career, it’s still a far cry from what the 49ers defense has needed.
Pro Football Focus’ player grades reflect it:
- Fred Warner: 71.3
- Azeez Al-Shaair: 60.5
- Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles: 57.9
- Marcell Harris: 54.9
This group of linebackers has also been tabbed with 23 missed tackles on the season, too, which might explain why opponents are averaging 4.4 yards per rush against the Niners defense, 21st in the league.
It hasn’t been a complete disaster here for San Francisco, but there’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.