Why 49ers LB Greenlaw poised for breakout in third season


Over the last few seasons, Fred Warner has gotten much of the praise and credit for the success of the 49ers' linebacking corps. That isn't without good reason, as Warner was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2020 and has been anointed the best linebacker in the NFL by the reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers.

However, Warner isn't the only 49ers linebacker that has consistently performed at a high level. Dre Greenlaw, who was a fifth-round draft pick back in 2019, has been the 49ers' second-leading tackler in each of his first two NFL seasons.

Despite missing three games in 2020, Greenlaw nearly equaled many of his stat totals from his rookie season, in which he appeared in all 16 games.

Greenlaw upped his solo tackles per game average from four in 2019 to 4.69 in 2020, and also had seven total tackles for a loss last season, compared to just three in his first NFL season. He also had the same number of sacks (1.0) and quarterback hits (two) as he did in three more games in 2019.

Starting 22 of his 29 career games, Greenlaw has been one of the 49ers' most consistent defensive players since he joined the organization.

What could stand to benefit Greenlaw as he enters Year 3 is the 49ers' new defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans, who spent the past three seasons as the organization's inside linebackers coach. Ryans has worked extensively with Greenlaw and should be able to deploy a defensive scheme that maximizes the talents of the young linebacker.

RELATED: 49ers LBs Warner, Greenlaw look ready for 2021 season

A healthy return of Nick Bosa up front on the defensive line also should take some pressure off the 49ers linebackers, as a more consistent pass rush would make life easier for Greenlaw and the rest of the defense.

Greenlaw will turn 24 on May 25, and still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, at a bargain price for a starting-caliber linebacker.

If the 49ers' defense returns to the elite level it showed in 2019, and this team lives up to the championship expectations many within the organization have, Greenlaw will be a critical part of that.

Big things could be coming for No. 57 in 2021.

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