© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA – The 49ers only had a pair of practices to prepare for a rapid turnaround week in which they faced the Denver Broncos on Monday and play the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, in a game which figures to provide the best, and perhaps best look at many of the team’s starters before the season gets underway. One player fully prepared for Saturday is DeForest Buckner, who’s got a little extra motivation courtesy of a surprise snub by his peers.
Buckner on his “crazy” Top 100 snub
Above Buckner on the NFL’s annual Top 100 list (voted on by players) were 19 defensive linemen and seven defensive tackles. While sacks aren’t everything, the job of a pass rusher is to get to the quarterback, and Buckner was tied for 14th-best in that category with 12 sacks in 2018. The only defensive tackle with more sacks than him last season was the best player in the league, Aaron Donald.
Buckner’s 67 combined tackles were the most by any defensive tackle in the league. His 20 QB hits were tied for fifth-best among defensive tackles, and tied for 22nd-best in the league. His 17 tackles for a loss were eighth-best in the league, and second-best among defensive tackles, trailing only Donald. The fact that he didn’t make the list is confounding, especially for Buckner.
“It’s crazy right? I mean, it is what it is,” Buckner said. “Honestly, at the end of the day, if I’m doing my job and I’m contributing to my team, that’s all that matters to me and the respect will come.”
Buckner, who said he’s “looking forward” to playing his first game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, in which he said he’ll play the whole first half, was given something extra to chew on by the ratings snub.
“It’s just more fuel to the fire,” Buckner said.
Here’s how Buckner’s stats compare to every other defensive tackle on the list (the list of all defensive linemen is below):
Graphic by Jake Hutchinson/KNBR, data courtesy of Football Reference
DT Aaron Donald #1 – Rams
DE J.J. Watt #12 – Texans
DT Fletcher Cox #28 – Eagles
DE Chris Jones #36 – Chiefs
DT Akiem Hicks #39 – Bears
DE Cameron Jordan #41 – Saints
DE DeMarcus Lawrence #45 – Cowboys
DE Melvin Ingram #48 – Chargers
DE Myles Garrett #49 – Browns
DE Calais Campbell #54 – Jaguars
DE Joey Bosa #56 – Chargers
DE Danielle Hunter #57 – Vikings
DE Jadeveon Clowney #63 – Texans
DE Jason Pierre-Paul #65 – Buccaneers
DT Gerald McCoy #75 – Buccaneers
DT Geno Atkins #79 – Bengals
DE Frank Clark #85 – Seahawks
DT Cameron Heyward #88 – Steelers
DT Jurrell Casey #92 – Titans
Here’s the link to the full list, which features Dee Ford (listed as a linebacker, at No. 67, and George Kittle at No. 29).
Kwon Alexander continues to stoke fire in Fred Warner while readying for “legendary” return
Both Alexander and Warner will be playing on Saturday, both for the first time this preseason. Warner has been healthy but kept out as a precaution against injuries, while Alexander has been working back from his ACL tear.
Alexander said he’s being working his “butt off” and knew he was ready to go once he felt his speed get back, both going forward and laterally on cuts. He said he didn’t put a timeline on himself, just wanting to “make sure I felt great, legendary.” His return to the field won’t go unappreciated.
“It’s a big thing for me,” Alexander said. “I ain’t played in a minute, now, so I’m happy to be back out there.”
Alexander is trying to temper his excitement for Week 1, in which he’ll make his 49ers debut in the regular season against his old team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When he does, he’ll be alongside Fred Warner, who he’s helped ignite and form the backbone of the 49ers’ “Hot Boys” linebacker corps.
“He’s been doing great,” Alexander said of Warner “He’s very smart, intelligent. He’s going to be nice. I need to keep out there alive because he’s going to be a great middle linebacker… This is his second year too, so I remember my first two years, he’s way ahead of me, so he’s going to be a great player.”
Warner stated his appreciation for Alexander, but wanted to clarify that he’s also pretty loud, after Richard Sherman said Wednesday that Alexander is the loudest.
“He’s legendary, he’s everywhere at once,” Warner said. “I’d say we’re both pretty loud. He’s kind of brought that out of me going from year one to year two, being more confident in the defense and having him there helps a lot.”
More important than that volume is Alexander’s physical recovery, which Warner has seen firsthand, saying there’s “no doubt” he possesses a brew of qualities, all of which have shown up increasingly as Alexander’s fitness has grown.
“Just his speed, physicality,” Warner said. “Things that we talked about before he even got on the field are starting to show up and he’s starting to look more and more like himself as he’s gotten more comfortable and back to himself.”
The most notable returns on Wednesday (which was a non-full contact practice) were those of Josh Garnett, who’d been sidelined since the start of camp with surgery on his finger, Mike Person, who was questionable with a foot sprain, D.J. Jones, who had been dealing with a knee sprain, Damontre Moore, who had a thumb injury that knocked him out after a good first half of Monday’s game, Levine Toilolo, who’s been out with shoulder soreness, and Ronald Blair III, who’s had a hamstring injury.
The notable outs on Wednesday were George Kittle, still dealing with a calf injury, Adrian Colbert with a hamstring injury (already on the bubble and does not help his case to make the roster), Jullian Taylor with back stiffness and Jaquiski Tartt, with a personal day. The list below by The Athletic’s Matt Barrows includes just about every injury and returner except for Jalen Hurd, who was out with back stiffness.
Kittle went thru an extensive workout Monday in Denver. Teams appears to be using an abundance of caution as far as his calf strain.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 21, 2019