O'Neil states case for Buckner to win Defensive Rookie of the Year

O'Neil states case for Buckner to win Defensive Rookie of the Year

SANTA CLARA – The campaign has begun for 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil stated his case Tuesday for the No. 7 overall pick in the draft to become first 49ers player to win the award since Patrick Willis in 2007.

“I don’t know how he’s not going to be considered for the defensive rookie of the year,” O’Neil said of Buckner. “If you look at his numbers compared to every defensive tackle in this league, he leads the NFL in tackles for all the defensive tackles. He’s at the top in sacks. He’s played the most plays of any defensive tackles in the NFL

“He’s done an unbelievable job. And for such a young guy, he’s the ultimate professional.”

Buckner leads all rookies with 71 combined tackles this season. He ranks second in the entire NFL behind the New York Giants’ Damon Harrison, a fifth-year player who has recorded 82 tackles.

Buckner’s top competition for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year figures to come from fellow first-round draft picks Joey Bosa and Leonard Floyd, and second-round pick Deion Jones of Atlanta.

Bosa leads all NFL rookies with 9.5 sacks, but has missed five games, including a length contract stalemate with the San Diego Chargers after being the No. 3 overall pick. Bosa has 36 tackles.

Floyd, the No. 9 overall pick of the Chicago Bears, is tied for second among NFL rookies in sacks with seven. Yannick Ngakoue, a third-round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars, also has seven sacks. Floyd has 33 tackles, while Ngakoue has 20 combined tackles.

Buckner ranks fourth among rookies with six sacks while playing more snaps than any interior defensive lineman in the league. He is tied for the 49ers lead with Ahmad Brooks.

“His progression has been awesome -- it really has been,” O’Neil said. “Early on, he had to learn how to get his pads down. Now you see him dominating at the line of scrimmage and knocking guys back instead of stalemating or, at times, being knocked back.

"You’ve seen the progression of him as far as a pass rusher from the start of the season to now."

Jones, a linebacker, could be a strong contender. In addition to being the co-leader among rookies with three interceptions, Jones also has recorded 102 tackles in 14 games.

Former 49er Alex Smith suffers eerily similar injury to Joe Theismann


Former 49er Alex Smith suffers eerily similar injury to Joe Theismann

After playing the first seven years of his career in a San Francisco 49ers uniform, current Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith still has plenty of fans in the Bay Area. If you're one of them, you probably already heard the news.

Smith's season -- at the very least -- is over.

Word to the wise: if you're the squeamish type, don't watch the replay. Just ... don't.

In the third quarter of Washington's eventual defeat to the Texans on Sunday, Smith was sacked by Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt and defensive back Kareem Jackson, causing him to break both the fibula and tibia in his right leg.

As Smith writhed in pain with his ankle bent at an awkward angle, it was abundantly clear that it would be a season-ending injury. But in the minutes that followed, an eerie observation was made:

We've seen this before.

On November 18, 1985, Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was sacked by New York Giants' Hall-of-Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor on Monday Night Football, infamously breaking Theismann's fibula and tibia in his right leg. Washington would go on to lose that game 23-21, and Theismann never played another down.

Guess what this Sunday's date was?

November 18, 2018.

And guess what the final score of Texans-Redskins game was?

That's right. 23-21.

So, precisely 33 years to the day, Smith suffered an identical injury to the one that forced Theismann into retirement, and the Redskins lost by an identical score. Creepy, huh?

Theismann was 35 when he suffered his injury. Smith is currently 34. It's unknown at this time how long his recovery will take, and the degree to which it will affect his ability to play another down in the NFL.

Smith was carted off the field and immediately taken to the hospital to undergo surgery. As Theissman himself suggested, Smith isn't necessarily destined for the same fate that he was.

"If there is a positive aspect," Theismann told ESPN, "it's that so much of medicine has changed."

Here's hoping for a full and speedy recovery.


2019 NFL draft order: 49ers have No. 1 overall pick after Raiders win


2019 NFL draft order: 49ers have No. 1 overall pick after Raiders win

The 49ers were off Sunday, but they still managed to win when it came to NFL draft positioning.

Thanks to the Raiders' last-second 23-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco is in position to select No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

The 49ers, Raiders and Cardinals all are 2-8 now, but San Francisco holds the first tiebreaker -- the weakest strength of schedule as of Sunday afternoon.

Should the 49ers, Raiders and/or Cardinals have the same strength of schedule, the next tiebreaker is a coin flip. That was the case last season with the 49ers and Raiders, and the Silver and Black selected No. 10 after San Francisco won the toss at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The 49ers can inch closer to securing the top pick in Week 12. They travel to Tampa next Sunday to play the Buccaneers, who are one of nine NFL teams with three or fewer victories after Sunday. 

San Francisco last selected No. 1 overall in 2005, when it drafted Utah quarterback Alex Smith. The Raiders had the top pick two years later and took LSU QB JaMarcus Russell.