Fred Warner can do it all.
The 49ers linebacker is the heartbeat of San Francisco's defense, and the third-year star is starting to be recognized nationally for his elite play. CBS' Tony Romo gushed about Warner during the 49ers' demolition of the New England Patriots in Week 7, something that pleased Warner, who has been working hard to become one of the best linebackers in the league.
But what makes Warner so special? There's no one better to ask than former 49ers linebacker and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Takeo Spikes.
"When I look at his game, there are three things that jump out to me," Spikes said. "Number one is awareness. His pre-snap awareness is second to none. You see him out there directing traffic as if he's the airport traffic controller guy. He's out there with the cones and everything telling the guys, 'Hey, the play is coming here, it's coming here.' Him being able to do that before the snap, it calms so many guys down. Number two, he has natural running lane instincts. When you see Fred Warner, you see him come out of nowhere. He understands how blocking patterns are, he understands what the running back sees. He's been blessed with quickness and that's the reason why every time you see the end of a play, you are guaranteed to see him in the frame.
"Last, but not least, is his route recognition. This goes back to his days in college when he was a safety. So he understands certain route combinations, certain patterns that are coming depending on weakside and depending on strongside. When you tally all of this up: his route recognition, understanding the pre-snap analysis and his natural running lane instincts, you're going to get the plays like when he intercepted Cam Newton last week. That's the reason why this guy is playing so well. Because he has what it takes: The ingredients to be all an All-Pro."
In a season that has seen the 49ers lose a number of key players to injury, Warner has been an important constant for Robert Saleh's defense and has raised the level of everyone around him.
RELATED: 49ers' main obstacle to a big trade
Warner will face an important chess match on Sunday when the 49ers visit the rival Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. After two straight wins, the 49ers now sit at 4-3 and just 1.5 games back of Seattle atop the division.
If the 49ers are to leave the Pacific Northwest with a massive win, Warner will have to win the chess match against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That will be the key to bottling up what has been one of the most explosive offenses in the league.