SANTA CLARA — Moving forward without Kwon Alexander on the field will be a challenge for the 49ers' defense, but Fred Warner is ready and willing to help Dre Greenlaw prepare for their biggest game yet.
The task is large for Warner and the defense facing the NFL's top-rated quarterback in Seahawks star Russell Wilson. They also must stop running back Chris Carson, who boasts four 100-yard games over the first nine weeks of the season.
“We know what type of player we are getting with Russell and their running back, Chris Carson,” Warner said. “We just have to make sure we are executing.”
That wasn’t exactly the case in the 49ers' win in the desert last Thursday night when Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and running back Kenyan Drake made the game a little too close for comfort. Murray completed 17 of his 24 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns, and Drake carried the ball 15 times for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson arguably is more mobile than Murray and extremely accurate while passing on the run.
Greenlaw, who registered his first career NFL sack in Arizona along with three solo tackles, played 27 of the defense’s 56 snaps. He played much more in the second half while filling in for Alexander after the veteran left the game with a torn pectoral muscle.
While Greenlaw was thrust onto the field suddenly to face the Cardinals' unique offense, Warner described the rookie as calm and mature. That same attitude has been apparent in this week’s preparation for his first NFL start with linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans.
“I think he does a great job every day,” Warner said of Greenlaw. “Just taking it day by day, trying to work on the little things that he might need to work on. He does a great job of listening to DeMeco. He flies around, plays physical.”
Warner knows that Greenlaw has big shoes to fill and that the rookie’s development will involve a learning curve. Having gone through the same process just one year ago, Warner understands what lies ahead for the Arkansas product.
“He’s a rookie,” Warner said. “So he’s going to have to try and keep up every single week when there’s more install and there’s more new things the offense is going throw at us. But I think he’s just got to keep playing fast and being himself. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Last week’s close call facing the Cardinals might have come at a good time for a 49ers defense that had previously been on a roll stopping opposing offenses. They now have had a few extra days to regroup, refocus and improve on their performance from Arizona.
“Yeah, no doubt,” Warner said. “We, for sure, could have done things a lot better last week against the Cardinals but looking forward to just building off of that. Every week is important, but this one should be fun.”