There are a lot of issues with the 49ers right now, but perhaps the most frustrating is the ineptitude of the secondary.
San Francisco elected to largely ignore the cornerback position this offseason, starting the year with the perpetually injured Jason Verrett as their No. 1 DB, and adding a few late round picks as a stop-gap. The decision almost immediately backfired, with Verrett going down for the season in Game 1, and both rookies failing to make an impact thus far.
The rest of the defensive backfield has struggling mightily with pass interference penalties. The 49ers’ 11 DPI flags are the most in the NFL.
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive back Donte Whitner joined Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks on Tuesday afternoon, and pointed to two tweaks the defensive backs could make to clean up these issues. Namely, changing their pre-snap technique, and playing through the eyes of the receivers.
“Yeah it’s easily correctable, but you have to do your work early in the down,” Whitner said. “When I say that I mean corners, it’s all about the techniques that you use, it’s all about where your eyes are, it’s all about your backpeddle, your knee-bend, staying on top of the route. So a lot of times when they are chasing these guys and they panic that the ball is there, that shows you that they didn’t do their work early on in the down. So they should focus on that.
“Then, when you are in those positions, you’re taught certain things, there’s protocols. You do your best not to interfere with the receiver, and play through his eyes and his hands. You don’t bump into the receiver, you don’t grab, you stay calm you stay poised when the ball is in the air. The only one I didn’t think had an opportunity was K’Waun Williams.
“You have to put some of that on the defensive line. When they vacate some of those interior rush patterns, it allows the quarterback to step up and it turns to panic mode, and then it’s an under thrown ball, you have to put that on the entire defense. For the most part, it’s all about technique within the early parts of the down.”
Kyle Shanahan mentioned on Wednesday that the 49ers are already working on the issue in practice.
“Yeah, we’re changing up all our individual drills and stuff today,” Shanahan said. “No footwork stuff. We’re throwing jump balls and having them try to locate the ball and do all that stuff, which is the only way to practice it. You don’t do one-on-one every day. We do one-on-one on Thursdays, so we’ll get them a lot more live, full-speed reps at that and not working at the other stuff, just work at that. Because it’s way too bad right now. No matter what the situation is, tough to win games if you don’t fix that.”
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Listen to the full interview below.