The San Francisco 49ers couldn’t have asked for much more out of their defense in Week 1. The group allowed just 17 points against the Minnesota Vikings and forced Kirk Cousins to miss on his last eight pass attempts. The defense also came up with some key stops in the fourth quarter and held the Vikings to just 3.6 yards per carry for the game.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh took to the podium on Thursday to discuss the team's performance, and he highlighted a few specific players. Here are the top quotes from his press conference.
1. LB Fred Warner
The 49ers rookie middle linebacker racked up 12 tackles and a forced fumble in his NFL debut. Saleh noted that Warner is just scratching the surface of his potential.
“I thought he had good command of the huddle, did a really good job relaying the message of the calls and did a great job getting people lined up,” Saleh said. “He made plays when they were presented to him. Saw the game very well. He did have mistakes, some that are not seen to the naked eye. So, he’s got a lot of stuff that he does have to clean up. Statistically, obviously, he produced and made a lot of plays. But, he’ll tell you himself that there’s a lot of room to get better.”
2. CB Richard Sherman
Saleh was also pleased with Sherman’s official debut in a 49ers uniform. The corner played all 71 snaps and defended one pass.
“I thought Sherm did a really good job,” Saleh said. “The one ball that he may have given up was like a triple move with the quarterback scrambling, which would be very difficult to defend for even the greatest corners of all time. I thought he did really well, did a great job communicating, was phenomenal on the sideline. He was the Sherm that I’ve grown to love. He was very good.”
3. LB Elijah Lee
With Brock Coyle (concussion/neck) on Injured Reserve and Malcolm Smith (hamstring) still very much questionable for Week 2, it’s likely to be Lee who starts at WILL next to Warner. Lee played 10 snaps in Week 1 and posted a 90.4 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus. Saleh has confidence that he’ll show well against the Lions.
“He’s ready to go,” Saleh said. “He’ll be getting some reps and we’ll see how it plays out for Sunday, but we have all the faith in the world in Elijah to go out and perform.”
4. DL Ronald Blair
Blair played 24 snaps against the Vikings, predominantly in passing downs. He posted two total tackles and a half sack. He’s undersized at his position, but his motor has always been Blair’s calling card.
“I love Ronnie’s intensity,” Saleh said. “He can play multiple spots along the defensive line. He’s a tireless worker, he really is. He does it exactly the way you want it to be done, and he’s a guy that he’s going to win with tremendous effort and grit.”
5. DL Solomon Thomas
Thomas saw 35 snaps in Minnesota. Most of those reps came on base downs before he was taken out in sub packages. Saleh said that Thomas needs to prove he can be a consistent pass rusher before taking third down reps from Arik Armstead.
“He’s got to be one of the best ones on a consistent basis,” Saleh said. “And he’s gotten a lot better, he really has, and he’s shown stuff. If we get into a groove of a game, we envision Solly getting out there just as much as Arik does. The way that whole second half went, there was no opportunity for him. But, we have all the faith in the world in Solomon. We’re very fortunate. We’ve got a lot of interior guys that are pretty freaking good, and the first dibs was to obviously Buck and Arik.”