What 'excited' Saleh sees in new 49ers defender Willis


Decimated by injuries along the defense, the 49ers went out and acquired defensive end Jordan Willis on Wednesday in a trade with the New York Jets.

Willis played a limited role in the Jets' defense so far this season, playing just 11 percent of the team's snaps. But 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who brought Willis in for a pre-draft visit back in 2017, is looking forward to getting the young player in the building once he passes through the NFL's COVID-19 protocol for players changing teams.

"Thought he'd be a good football player, but in our system now with the way we teach the D-Line, we think that hopefully this gives him a breath of fresh air and we really think it really fits to his style of what we think we can maximize out of his body," Saleh told reporters on Thursday.

"We're excited to get him here and give him a chance for an opportunity to compete. We think what we do kind of fits his skill set and give him a chance to go get off the ball and set edges and get up to the quarterback. So, we'll see. I'm just excited to get our hands on him on Monday, I believe it is. I think we’ll practice with him on Wednesday, so not quite sure, but we'll see.”

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Willis has 52 total tackles over his four years in the NFL, although none have come this season. The Kansas State product does have one fumble recovery in two games played in 2020.


Both the Jets and 49ers employ a 4-3 defensive scheme, so Willis will see more time as a defensive end, although he also has experience lining up at outside linebacker.

Kwon Alexander didn't practice on Thursday or Friday, which puts his status for Sunday's game in New England against the Patriots in doubt. The move to acquire Willis provides valuable depth along the front seven, as Saleh hopes his group can remain healthy through what will be a brutal four-game stretch leading into a Week 11 bye.

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