BRADENTON, Fla. — For the second time in as many months, a member of the 49ers has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.
Linebacker Fred Warner took home the title for November after Nick Bosa had the honor for October. During the month, Warner tallied 44 total tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.
49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes altering the linebacker’s responsibilities has given Warner an opportunity to play with more speed.
“We’ve taken a lot off his plate so he can just go line up and play,” Saleh said Thursday. “Putting more of the onus on making sure that guys lineup and go play. We were playing some of those read-option teams, the Arizona teams, we’re asking him to make a lot of checks and see if he can get us in the perfect defense.
“While he’s busy trying to do that, he’s not able to focus on his job. Even though he was getting everyone lined up and everything was perfect, it’s just not fair for him. So, to take a little bit off his plate so he can go ahead and go play, I think that’s really been the difference.”
Saleh is not alone in praising Warner. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman also has been impressed with the young linebacker's work ethic and growth in his second season. The fact that Warner didn’t play inside until he was with the 49ers makes his accomplishments even more significant.
“The inside linebacker already has so much on his plate,” Sherman said. “Being able to take some of that off—there was one game I think he had six calls in one play. Where if this guy moves here, he has to readjust the line. He has to tell the DBs this, he has to tell this guy this and sometimes that just doesn’t allow him to play fast.
“He’s getting everybody else lined up to play fast but he can’t play fast. He has to think about all these calls, all these adjustments. Maybe you put a little more strain on the rest of the guys. You spread out the strain and it allows him to play fast and for us to be a better defense.”
Now in his second year, Warner sees things developing on the field more quickly. No matter the workload given to him by Saleh, the BYU product has been able to adjust.
“I think as the year has gone on, he has kind of started to realize what’s too much, what’s too little,” Warner said. “I agree completely. Ever since kind of the midway point of the season, I think he has lined it up for me to just go out and play fast.”