49ers mailbag: Chase Young’s impact should reverberate into secondary

49ers mailbag: Chase Young’s impact should reverberate into secondary

SANTA CLARA – Tuesday’s trade for Chase Young not only addressed the 49ers’ insatiable appetite for defensive linemen, but that deadline-beating deal also sparked more questions for this week’s social media mailbag:

How does this help a secondary that can’t cover anyone? (@BrianPA1841910)

The 49ers, since Day 1 under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, insist their defensive line takes top priority. Pressuring (and sacking) quarterbacks makes it harder to pick on good/bad/ugly defensive backs, who simply are set up to fail under the NFL’s pass-friendly rules. Javon Hargrave was this offseason’s expensive addition to bring interior pressure next to Arik Armstead, but there hasn’t been a consistent push or threat.

Since picking Bosa No. 2 in 2019, the 49ers have been on a safari, in search of a complementary sack animal: Dee Ford, Kerry Hyder, Jordan Willis, Dion Jordan, Samson Ebukam, Arden Key, Charles Omenihu, Drake Jackson, Clelin Ferrell, Randy Gregory, and, now Young, Bosa’s Ohio State teammate in 2017-18.

Do you feel the need to grab another cornerback? (@can_i_livedaedae)

Always. But they didn’t deal for one Tuesday. Fresno native Jaylon Johnson stayed put on a Bears defense that acquired its own ex-Commanders pass rusher in Montez Sweat. The 49ers even released a veteran cornerback Tuesday: Anthony Brown, the former Cowboys’ starter who played three special teams snaps in two games.

Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir are further entrenched as starters. Nickel back Isaiah Oliver gave up two touchdowns Sunday but made 10 tackles, recovered a fumble and nearly had a first-series interception. Ambry Thomas remains on the bench. Sam Womack and rookie Darrell Luter Jr. could be activated off injury lists, when ready and needed. We could probably do a separate mailbag on whether they should poach Jason Verrett off the Texans’ practice squad.

Will the Niners win the division? (@wojaen19)

Sunday’s loss, coupled with the Seahawks’ win, dropped the 49ers out of first place for the first time since … a year ago, when they were 4-4 after a Week 9 bye. The Seahawks (5-2) have a half-game lead, and they also pulled off a trade for a defensive lineman: Leonard Williams, from the Giants. Reminder: The 49ers went 3-0 against the Seahawks last season, and, this season’s games are on Thanksgiving in Seattle (Week 12) and Dec. 14 at Levi’s Stadium (Week 14).

Why are they choosing to hurt me like this three weeks in a row, Cam? (@TweetsOfCarter)

That’s how the 49ers usually do business. Not all seasons can start 8-0 as they did in 2019. Consider the past four seasons:

In 2020, they were 4-4 and finished 6-10 (while abroad in Arizona thanks to Santa Clara County’s COVID ban).

In 2021, they were 3-5 and finished 10-7 (en route to the NFC Championship Game).

In 2022, they were 4-4 and finished 13-4 (en route to the NFC Championship Game).

A third straight playoff run is still very much in play. The No. 1 seed will be a tough get, and don’t be shocked if that home-field advantage goes through Detroit instead of Philadelphia.

This offensive line terrifies me. Even with Trent Williams, they have some serious problems. They tried to build their offensive line on the cheap and they seem to be paying for it, or at least Purdy is. (@SanFranSooner)

Another problem is afoot: left guard Aaron Banks has a turf toe, which comes with a vague recovery timeline and could sideline him for a few weeks. That likely puts veteran Jon Feliciano into action on the already suspect interior. Center Jake Brendel was overpowered at least twice last game (third-and-short on opening drive, fourth-quarter touchdown pass) and right guard Spencer Burford seems to be working through sophomore struggles. Aside from making Williams the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman in 2021, the 49ers indeed are banking on developing their other linemen into long-term starters.

The play calls on offense and defense seem uninspired. Does this seem to be the case from your point of view as well? (@gabesstorytime)

That absolutely seemed the case defensively Sunday, as if Wilks overcorrected with a dull front-four rush after drawing so much heat for the all-out blitz that burned them in Minnesota. Offensively, the 49ers’ use of Kyle Juszczyk on short-yardage sneaks seemed smart to protect Purdy from another concussion, but the first-and-goal call that resulted in an interception seemed ludicrous: NFL touchdown leader Christian McCaffrey was cast as a lead blocker, and the play blew up when Purdy did not handoff to 2.0-yard-per-carry Elijah Mitchell.

When you get the salary that you do, what gets you fired up to go out and prove you’re worth that investment? (@FletcherV)

I don’t see the 49ers’ highest-paid players as a bunch of underperforming fat cats. Nick Bosa, the NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback, went out Sunday and played every snap for the first time in 59 career games. Injuries justifiably shelved Williams and Deebo Samuel, who landed big extensions in 2021 and ’22 respectively. We’re in Week 8. Plenty of time to earn that loot, especially in the playoff push.

Why do players picked in the first few rounds not see the field? The Drake Jacksons, Ronnie Bells, Ty-Davis Prices, Ambry Thomases? (@gvo1215)

The draft is a way into the NFL. To get onto the field, you must show you’re the best option. None of those players listed have done that, either in practice or games (possibly meeting rooms, weight rooms, etc.).

How can Steve Wilks keep play-calling duties? He needs to either run his own system or the Niners need someone else on staff to do it. (@Hart0089er)

No one else on the defensive staff has coordinator experience. Missed tackles, blown assignments and an incomplete pass rush are hallmarks of this defense’s first eight games under Wilks. Young’s arrival should help, as a better pass rush should alleviate the need for blitzes, as it did in past seasons.

Am I wrong to think the most likely problem is the new defensive coordinator, who operates sooooo differently than the very successful last two? (@PeterHartlaub)

Wilks’ predecessors, Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans, also drew intense criticism to start their tenures, and they were more visible by working on the sideline. As for whether Wilks remains upstairs in a booth or moves to the sideline, don’t fret over where he calls play, and instead focus on why he’s calling certain plays. His specialty is the secondary, and perhaps he’s put too much on the defensive backs’ plate.

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How do they fix the defense? (@adawgslife)

Richard Sherman, three years removed from his 49ers tenure, offered a blistering analysis Sunday night on his podcast and suggested that Wilks could be relieved of his duties or move to the sideline from the coaches’ booth.

Sherman said if he were the defensive coordinator, he would not play man coverage on early downs, and he would unleash the four-man defensive front without clogging the middle. “To sit there and run games and stunts, instead of pinning ears back and go get to the quarterback like they’ve specialized in the last three or four years, it’s weird,” Sherman said, “and I think Kyle Shanahan has had enough. This is the straw that’s going to break the camel’s back. There’s going to be changes next week, I imagine.”

What do the guys do during halftime? (@d_marieeeee)

Players get roughly 10 minutes in their locker room to go over adjustments – to the game’s scheme, their uniforms, their nutrition. The 49ers’ defense has been stingier after halftime, in terms of first-half scores (10 touchdowns, five field goals) vs. second-half scores (three touchdowns, 10 field goals). Offensively, the 49ers owned double-digit halftime leads in four of their five wins to open the season, and their scoring has not been wildly imbalanced (first half: 15 touchdowns, six field goals; second half: 11 touchdowns, six field goals).

Why did they ruin parking and tailgating? (@RotundPatriarch)

This might be the season’s most frequent complaint other than what I call Bosackanxiety. The bottleneck on Great America Parkway into Levi’s Stadium’s Green Lot has gotten progressively worse as the 49ers have improved in recent years. An 11-game home win streak made that more bearable before last Sunday’s woes. One fan slid into my DMs this week and wrote that “parking is a huge mess again” due to the closing of some gates. Fans are arriving earlier and earlier to try beating the traffic jam. Candlestick was no expressway, but tailgating sure seemed easier to stage.

What type of fence increases a home value the most? (@ahredsox)

Speaking as a licensed Realtor and your trusted beat reporter, there’s only one answer: A defense, featuring Nick Bosa and Chase Young together again.