49ers

For Buckner, improving 49ers' pass rush is one-step process

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AP

For Buckner, improving 49ers' pass rush is one-step process

SAN JOSE -- The 49ers may need just one quick step in order to improve their biggest area of concern this season.

The 49ers ranked tied for 26th in the NFL last season with 30 quarterback sacks. The club declined this offseason to pick up the option on veteran Elvis Dumervil, who led the 49ers with 6.5 sacks. The 49ers have been unable to generate much of a pass rush since the release of Aldon Smith prior to the 2015 season.

So much of the onus for an improved pass rush falls onto the shoulders of DeForest Buckner, the team’s best defensive player. He recorded just three sacks last season but is clearly capable of so much more.

Buckner said the emphasis of his offseason training is to find that extra step. He led the NFL last season with 19 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I had too many, you know, almosts," Buckner said at a gathering to announce events connected with the college football national championship game, which is coming to Levi's Stadium on Jan. 7, 2019. "And I’m just really trying to find that extra step in my game.

“And I really think it’s going to help me this year, especially working this offseason, finding that extra step – whether it’s footwork, getting my strength up in my lower half. I’m working on everything I can to get that extra step so I can really finish those sacks.”

Buckner has the ability to generate a pass rush from the interior of the line. The 49ers are counting on contributions from a long list of potential pass-rushers, including Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair, Cassius Marsh, Jeremiah Attaochu, Eli Harold and Pita Taumoepenu. The 49ers could also add a pass-rusher -- as early as No. 9 overall -- in the upcoming NFL Draft.

“I think we have the guys, the tools, to do it right now,” Buckner said. “And if they want to go out and get an extra guy to help out the team, it’s a benefit. Right now, we have the pieces to do it. We all know we have to be more consistent.”

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

One year ago, Josh Rosen had to think he was the Arizona Cardinals' future. General manager Steve Keim traded up to draft the quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick, but a lot can change in one year. 

Now, with the 2019 NFL Draft one week away, Rosen's future is up in the air.

“I definitely understand the situation,” Rosen said in a talk with SI TV. “I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions."

Despite having Rosen on the team, the Cardinals and new coach Kliff Kingsbury are expected to take quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Plenty can change, however, and on Tuesday, Kingsbury said Rosen has been "phenomenal" this offseason.

The 22-year-old QB already has dealt with change and uncertainty plenty of times in his young football career. Since his freshman season at UCLA through his NFL rookie season, Rosen has played under five offensive coordinators in four years.

Rosen went 3-10 as the Cardinals' starter last season (two of those wins were over the 49ers), and he threw for 2,278 yards and 11 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. While those aren't great numbers, QBs who are first-round picks typically receive many more chances to prove themselves. Rosen, however, might not have that chance in Arizona, but he said he's not sweating it.

"I think the best advice I've ever gotten in life, from so many different people, is control what you can control," Rosen said. "And whatever decisions are made, it's my duty to prove them right if they keep me and prove them wrong if they ship me off."

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If the Cardinals do ship off Rosen and draft Murray, they'd become perhaps the biggest storyline to watch in football. They'd also allow the 49ers to draft Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick, setting a rookie pass rusher versus a rookie quarterback in the NFC West for years to come.

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

When the 49ers were shopping for an edge rusher during free agency, they sought the advice of veteran offensive lineman Joe Staley, who offered valuable information regarding Dee Ford

Staley faced off against Ford in Week 3 of the 2018 season when the 49ers traveled to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. He had first-hand knowledge of Ford's much-noted first step off the line.

“That’s what I love about this franchise,” Staley said. “The guys that we have here really reach out to the players about guys that are going against them, guys who have gone against certain players and ask for feedback. 

“I don’t know how much stock they take into to that but just the fact that they reach out to the players and ask their opinions on all that stuff.”  

When Staley was asked if Ford was truly explosive, he gave a very succinct reply. 

“That’s a correct statement,” Staley said. “He’s one of the most explosive players I’ve played against. He was definitely a challenge to go against last year and every time I’ve ever played him.”

Shortly after Ford was signed by the 49ers, he gave a similarly complementary statement about Staley and his physical ability. 

“He’s athletic and he’s strong and he has functional strength,” Ford said. “Functional strength is so important. Every offensive line is strong. They’re huge, they’re big, they’re strong. That’s a given. But he has functional strength, which is rare. He’s a pure athlete with a savvy skillset. So you’re not going to beat him a lot.”

Staley recalled one instance where he thought the Ford had taken advantage of a no-call by the referees. 

“It was a challenging game,” Staley said. "He got me early on with that sack, the first step, that quickness. I was like 100-percent certain that he was offsides, he was that fast. But going back in the film he just timed it up super right on it.

“It’s that first step, get-off. You see guys like Von (Miller) have it. Even bigger guys like DeMarcus Lawrence has that explosive first step. He’s a bigger pass rusher. That really sets up everything they can do and gets the tackles and the offensive linemen playing on their heels and reacting a little bit more than they want to.”  

It was a memorable game for Ford as well, which included banter between the two of them. 

“We talked during the whole game,” Ford said. “It was fun. It was fun. It was trash talk, but we were enjoying it. I really admire his game. And that was huge for me, because he admired my game. He’s a vet. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and it’s huge to hear that from a guy like that.”

Staley remarked that he can’t wait to pick Ford’s brain and go against him in practice every day. He thinks it will make each of them better players. 

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Staley is very pleased his scouting report on Ford was influential in bringing the star edge rusher to California. So much so that he may have a future in scouting.

Well, at least according to Staley himself.