49ers’ Linebacker Duo Faces Ravens’ Defensive Power on Monday Night

49ers’ Linebacker Duo Faces Ravens’ Defensive Power on Monday Night

SANTA CLARO — As much as the 49ers’ Christmas game against the Baltimore Ravens will be seen as a referendum on this year’s Most Valuable Player, Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey and Lamar Jackson have other things to worry about Monday night.

Purdy and McCaffrey are looking for Ravens quarterbacks Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen. Smith and Regina would be unanimously voted the best duo of the NFL if it were not for the pair of the 49ers of Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Warner and Greenlaw get all the attention from Jackson, whose abilities as a runner and passer put defenses under constant stress.

Introducing the giants of Jung Hoo Leeand#039; Later Ice Automatic (225p) 225 pages 360 pages Subtitles disabled Subtitles FI english “I think they’re two guys that jump off the tape, and I think they’re comparable to our guys that I’ve seen this year and the last two years,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.

“To me, those two guys make the defense work.” Shanahan talked about Smith and Regina, but it could just as easily have been Warner and Greenlaw. When the top seeds in each conference meet at Levi’s Stadium, it’s no coincidence that both the 49ers (11-3) and Ravens (11-3) are at the forefront with their linebackers capable of keeping the offenses of this era going.

All four are under 240 pounds and rarely come off the field, as each can cover the field as a defensive back and be just as good in pass coverage as they are against the run. The days of the 250-pound middle linebacker have gradually given way to players who can handle spread offenses. In NFL parlance, in a 4-3 defense, the middle linebacker is “Mike”, the strong side is “Sam”, and the weak side is “Will”.

But the way teams play defense now, there are often only two linemen on the field and old-school signs don’t apply. “That’s really where the game is right now,” 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said. “You play so much outside space and teams try to spread you out and give you different ones. That’s why the old-school Mike’s linebacker isn’t like that anymore.

You’re looking for three and Willsand’s who can play Mike’s and ‘Sam’ Smith and Warner left in the 2018 draft when the Chicago Bears took Smith in the first round out of Georgia at No. 7. The 49ers took Warner in the third round (No. 70) after Brigham Young as a hybrid safety/linebacker .

Warner became the NFL’s highest-paid linebacker in 2021 with an average salary of $19.045 million, and Smith surpassed him with an average deal of $20 million after being traded from the Bears to the Ravens. Greenlaw, a fifth-round pick out of Arkansas in 2019, recognized Smith when both played in the Southeastern Conference, and they became friends when he went to the 49ers.

 

“The way he played, people would say, ‘You’re like Roquan,”’ Greenlaw said Friday. “We’ve been in touch and know each other pretty well, but we don’t talk regularly. Regina was a first-round pick, 28th overall, out of LSU in 2020 and is coming off his best season in free agency.

After already paying a lot for Smith and Jackson, Baltimore declined the Queen’s five-year option, which usually means a big-money contract extension. The 49ers wisely gave Greenlaw a two-year extension worth $16.4 million before last season, and he’s under contract until 2025. Chris Foerster, who coaches the 49ers’ offensive line, said it’s unusual for any team to have two running backs of that quality. “Most teams have one and another guy comes in,” Foerster said.

“There are two in this team and it’s a challenge.” Warner leads the 49ers with 116 tackles and looks destined for another All-Pro season with four interceptions, 2 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles. Greenlaw, who missed one game due to injury, is second with 98 tackles. Smith leads Baltimore in tackles with 142, and Queen is second with 112. “Even watching them before this week, they stand out on tape,” McCaffrey said. “They play fast, they play physical. They understand passing lanes.

They’re very versatile.” Shanahan said being athletic and versatile affects the entire defense. “It allows them to be as good in the zone as how good those guys are out there,” Shanahan said. “As much as they can get between the numbers takes the pressure off their corners, who can stay up top and make explosive plays.

” Warner, who shared first-team All-Pro honors with Smith last season, understands what the 49ers are up against. “I have a lot of respect for Roquan and Patrick,” Warner said. “The way they play the game is exactly the way it should be played.” Purdy hopes the training sessions against Warner and Greenlav will pay off when Smith and Queen are on the court on Monday night.

“Back in camp we saw some really good looks against them, their drop and how aggressive they are in the run game. All of that,” Purdy said. “For us, we understand what it looks like when the linebackers are flying around and playing smart.” Greenlaw believes he, Warner, Smith and Queen are better connected to their defenders.

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