It's a shame that the best play 49ers defensive lineman Ronald Blair made last season occurred on the final down he participated in.
Blair didn't just run down Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the open field in Week 10; he closed so quickly, he took the elusive QB down behind the line of scrimmage for a sack.
That display of freakish athleticism cost Blair the rest of the season, as he tore his ACL in chasing Wilson down. Had he remained healthy, he was on pace for a career year heading into unrestricted free agency.
Blair's injury, combined with the league restrictions on medical evaluations due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ultimately watered down his market. In March, he then signed a one-year contract to return for a fifth season with San Francisco.
Both defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek are big fans of Blair, and it's easy to understand why. He offers tremendous versatility and has been an important part of the 49ers' rotation on the defensive front. Shortly before putting pen to paper on his new contract, he posted an Instagram video of the progress he had made in his rehab. On Saturday, another video was posted, and it would appear he has made big strides in the three months since.
It sure looks like Blair is gaining confidence in that surgically-repaired knee, judging by the focus on stops-and-starts and lateral movement. Frankly, some of those drills look awfully similar to the play on which he sustained the injury.
With DeForest Buckner now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers likely won't be able to replace his production with any one single player -- at least not right away -- but rather, through the combined efforts of multiple linemen. San Francisco is counting on Blair to be a part of that group, and despite coming off a major injury, it looks like he is on pace to do so.
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