49ers

Fred Warner studied Kwon Alexander, now they're teammates on the 49ers

Fred Warner studied Kwon Alexander, now they're teammates on the 49ers

Fred Warner is not sure how it started, but there was a point during his college years at Brigham Young University when he started studying some of the NFL’s top linebackers.

So when the 49ers were successful in free agency in their pursuit of Kwon Alexander, Warner already had a lot of knowledge about the player with whom he would be lining up alongside.

“Yeah, I was actually very familiar,” Warner said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “I’ve been a big fan of his game ever since college. I started watching tape on different guys, and he was one of the guys I watched. It's pretty funny.”

Warner, who led the 49ers with 124 tackles while starting all 16 games at middle linebacker as a rookie, said he was immediately drawn to Alexander's style because of the passion he exhibits when he plays.

“You think about the kind of defense we play, if there were two values that we pride ourselves on, it’s speed and physicality, and that’s exactly the type of player I feel like he is,” Warner said. “And, obviously, playing with that passion brought me toward spending more time watching his game.”

Shortly after Alexander finalized his four-year, $53.5 million deal with the 49ers, Warner reached out to his new teammate to let him know he excited he was to become his teammate.

“We’ve been talking ever since,” Warner said. “He’s back at the stadium rehabbing from the knee. He looks great. We watch film together and started building that chemistry a little bit.”

The 49ers' official offseason program begins April 15 in Santa Clara, but Warner and Alexander have been working out at the team's facility. Alexander is rehabilitation from a torn ACL that cut short his final season with the Buccaneers.

Alexander was the middle linebacker during his four seasons with Tampa Bay and called the team’s signals. Warner held that responsibility with the 49ers last season. Alexander and Warner both say it’s not important who takes on the responsibility of wearing the helmet equipped with the radio transmitter to relay the play calls from defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to the rest of the huddle.

[RELATED: Warner proving to be a tackle, turnover machine]

After all, Warner points out the middle linebacker position and weakside linebacker spot are interchangeable in the 49ers' scheme. The only difference is the middle linebacker calls the signals.

“At the end of the day, the coaches are going to do whatever’s best for the defense,” Warner said.

Chris Simms wouldn't be shocked if 49ers faced Patriots in Super Bowl

Chris Simms wouldn't be shocked if 49ers faced Patriots in Super Bowl

If you're looking for someone to slow down the 49ers' hype train, sorry, NBC Sports' Chris Simms isn't here to help.

Actually, it's quite the opposite.

Simms wants you to know San Francisco's 5-0 record doesn't lack substance, and he expects the 49ers to continue progressing to the highest levels this season.

Are they legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

"Yes they are," Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. "They're not going anywhere."

"They are arguably the best team in football," Simms continued. "Okay, yeah, I'll give the Patriots the advantage right now because they're the Patriots and we've seen them do it, but when I look at the San Francisco 49ers, I look at -- it's a first-round bye. Is it a one-seed, or is it going to be a two-seed? That's how good the San Francisco 49ers are."

Simms has been impressed by San Francisco's depth and balance, particularly within the offensive and defensive lines.

"It starts up front," Simms explained, "and the 49ers -- yes, Mike McGlinchey's out ... and I know Joe Staley's out, and that hurts, and we might not see him the rest of the year -- but when McGlinchey is back in the fold, this is still one of the best offensive lines in football. Let alone, [Kyle] Shanahan is one of the best game plan designers in football with the run game, the play-action. And the defense ain't going anywhere.

[RELATED: Staley, Witherspoon closest to return among injured 49ers]

"They might be battling it out with the Patriots for the best defense in the sport," he elaborated. "It's the best front four in the sport I think right now, as far as size, physicality, ferociousness, their speed at the linebacker positions. I like Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt at safety. The corners are good, they're coached well."

Put it all together, and Simms believes the 49ers have the potential to play into February.

"The 49ers are for real, and I would not be shocked if we were down in Miami watching New England and San Francisco in the Super Bowl."

Hype train, full speed ahead.

Jalen Ramsey-Aaron Donald best NFL duo? Marcell Harris says this isn't NBA

Jalen Ramsey-Aaron Donald best NFL duo? Marcell Harris says this isn't NBA

The 49ers' much-improved defense has plenty of star power, but so do their rivals in Los Angeles after a blockbuster trade Tuesday. 

The Rams traded a trio of draft picks -- two first-rounders and one fourth-rounder -- to the Jacksonville Jaguars for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, giving LA two of the NFL best players at their respective positions when you remember that defensive tackle defensive lineman force of nature Aaron Donald also plies his trade in Tinseltown. 

It'd be difficult to find a pair of players on the same defense better than Ramsey and Donald, ESPN's "SportsCenter" account posed the question on Twitter if there is a better duo of defensive cornerstones around the NFL. The problem, according to 49ers safety Marcell Harris? There are nine other players on a defense. 

Harris has a point. Star power can only get you so far in the NFL -- even at historically important positions like quarterback or edge rusher -- because of the league's commitment to parity above all else. When it comes to the NBA, a team with the two best players on the court wins in the regular season and playoffs more often than not. 

[RELATED: Shanahan busts out jokes leading into 49ers vs. Washington]

While this is not necessarily Harris' gripe, the 49ers have a strong case to have a duo under consideration. Whether pairing defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and edge rusher Nick Bosa or swapping out one for one of linebackers Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner, San Francisco has a few cornerstones in its front seven. It's that group that made the Ramsey trade a head-scratcher to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, who argued that the Rams' offensive line should have been a bigger concern than their secondary considering the 49ers' success in Week 6.

Still, Ramsey and Donald are as good as what they do as just about anyone else in the NFL. The 49ers will get their first look at them in the same defense in Week 16 at Levi's Stadium, and they'll see firsthand whether the duo's dominance lifts the rest of the Rams defense.