49ers' 2020 defensive goal is simple, but will be tough to attain

49ers' 2020 defensive goal is simple, but will be tough to attain

Until the final seven minutes of the Super Bowl, the defense was the strength of the 49ers last season.

Robert Saleh’s defense was among the best in the NFL in 2019. The 49ers allowed the fewest passing yards of any NFL defense in a decade. The 49ers ranked No. 2 in total yards allowed.

But, still, the 49ers’ goal for the upcoming season is simple – though it will not be easy to attain.

“We’re just trying to be better than we were last year,” 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said during the team’s State of the Franchise virtual event on 49ers.com.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The 49ers return the vast majority of their defense from a year ago. Defensive tackles DeForest Buckner (trade) and Sheldon Day (free agent) are now members of the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers added South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the No. 14 overall pick in the draft to compensate for those losses.

The minimal offseason player movement and compatibility with the returners could be beneficial to the 49ers’ defense, especially because on-field offseason programs around the NFL were canceled this spring due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s the way we work together as a group of defense,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “The fact that we have so much chemistry with one another. That shows on the football field. You can tell why when we turn the tape on, it looks different from everybody else. It just does. And I think that’s because we play so hard for one another.”

The 49ers limited Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs offense to just 10 points through 3 ½ quarters of Super Bowl LIV. But Kansas City ripped off 21 points in the closing minutes to send the 49ers to a 31-20 loss to close the season.

The fact the 49ers came up short in the Super Bowl only serves as motivation to clear the high bar that was set last season, All-Decade cornerback Richard Sherman said.

“We’re just a bunch of guys who play hard, who care about one another, who care about the game, who want to be successful and want to sacrifice for one another,” Sherman said. “I think any time you bring that combination with the talent we have at all three levels of the defense, you’re going to have a recipe for success.

“With the leadership and the talent we have coming back, we can be even better. We left some plays out there, myself included. We have some unfinished business.”

[RELATED49ers' Richard Sherman not dwelling on allowing big play in Super Bowl]

The 49ers made dramatic improvements last season after some outside the organization were calling for Saleh’s removal as defensive coordinator after the 2017 and ’18 seasons.

“I think we took major leaps as a defense (last) year, but I think we can be even better moving forward in the future,” defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. “So cleaning up some of the mistakes from last year and striving to be better than we were.”

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson show interest in signing Antonio Brown

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson show interest in signing Antonio Brown

Around and around we go.

Almost any other wide receiver who burned as many bridges as Antonio Brown has over the last two years would never draw interest from another NFL team ever again. But due to his tantalizing talent and prolific production, he continues to get the benefit of the doubt.

He doesn't deserve it, but it's understandable. Forget receivers, when Brown is on the field, there are few offensive players more frightening for defensive coordinators. Of course, he also has proven himself to be a nightmare for his own coaches. Thus is the risk/reward factor he presents.

Despite his risk far outweighing the reward as of late, interest in Brown doesn't appear to be waning. 

Back in May, it was reported that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson "would love" to add Brown to his receiving corps. A little more than a month later, the two were connecting on routes on a practice field.

Yes, that is a Raiders helmet that Brown is wearing. How'd his time in Oakland go, again? But I digress...

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Wilson doesn't appear to be the only star quarterback interested in adding Brown to his roster. After former NFL receiver Chad Johnson took to Twitter to express his preference for Brown to join the Texans, Houston QB Deshaun Watson didn't exactly pour cold water on the idea.

The Texans were on the wrong end of one of the more one-sided trades in recent memory this offseason when they questionably sent standout receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Houston did acquire Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams, but perhaps Watson believes his receiving corps is missing an ingredient.

[RELATED: 49ers don't need Brown to be favorites, but Seahawks might]

If Brown is signed -- which is a big if -- it's unlikely he would be able to play much at all this coming season, regardless of which team signed him. A trio of Personal Conduct Policy investigations must be concluded before he can sign with a team, and even if all that is settled, it is widely expected that he would be facing a lengthy suspension upon rejoining the league.

Do you trust Brown to behave through that entire process? At this point, it's difficult to understand why anyone would. But clearly, some players still feel the risk is worth the reward.

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

The 49ers ran through the NFC playoffs, held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV and arguably have improved this offseason. So, they've got to be the favorites in their own division, right?

It wouldn't exactly be going out on a limb to take that stance, as San Francisco currently is the betting favorite to emerge not just from the NFC West, but the conference as a whole. There's a reason for that, and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon doesn't disagree.

"You'd have to go with San Francisco right now," Moon said Thursday on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo and Dibs" show when asked which team is the favorite in the NFC West. "I mean, they're the defending NFC champs. They bring back pretty much everybody from that football team. 

"They've lost a couple of receivers, but I still think they have a lot of good talent on their team. Their strength is going to be in their running game. I think their offensive line just got strengthened by signing (Trent Williams). So, they're going to be the team to beat, but this is going to be one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL.

"You've got Seattle, who's going to be right there. ... And then you always have the Rams, who you just don't know how good they're going to be. And then Arizona is going to be much more improved. So this is going to be a very, very competitive division, as it usually is."

[RELATED: Report: 49ers' Mostert requested pay raise this offseason]

The 49ers might be the deserved favorites in the division, but Moon is correct. The NFC West was tough enough last year, when San Francisco split the season series with the Seahawks and went down to the wire in both meetings with the Cardinals. As good as the 49ers are, claiming a second straight division title will be no easy task.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]