DeForest Buckner is quickly becoming one of the NFL's best defensive linemen.
Per Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus, Buckner leads all interior defenders with six quarterback hits and ten hurries throughout three weeks of play.
The San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman is in elite company with Ndamukong Suh and J.J. Watt as the only interior defenders with a 90.0-plus grade this season.
That kind of productivity through three games makes it surprising that Buckner is still looking for his first sack of 2017. Robert Saleh knows it's only a matter of time.
"DeForest is dominating, and those sacks are going to come in bunches for him," Saleh said. "I know he hasn't gotten the sacks yet, but if he keeps doing what he's doing and he keeps operating the way he is, there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to flood the gates open."
Saleh compared the second-year lineman to Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl linebacker Vic Beasley. Beasley, the eighth-overall pick in 2015, had only four sacks as a rookie before exploding for 15.5 last season.
Sometimes it just takes time for the sacks to come.
"Vic Beasley through 20 games wasn't getting much production on the quarterback, but you could feel some of his presence," Saleh said. "You're getting to the quarterback, but you're a step short. (Buckner's) going to find that step. There's no doubt he's going to find that step if he keeps working and the doors will just blow wide open and it'll also give an opportunity to the people around him."
San Francisco had struggled to get to the quarterback in the first few weeks of the season. The 49ers rank 30th in the league with just three sacks on the year, with all three coming in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Just sheer bad luck is partly to blame for Buckner's lack of sacks. He could have easily had two against Russell Wilson in Week 2. He continued to win his 1-on-1 matchups last Thursday against the Rams. The young pass rusher won't be satisfied until his efforts are reflected by his sack total.
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"I obviously still don't have a sack, so that's why I can't say I'm dominant," Buckner said of his early performance. "I'm winning my 1-on-1's and fighting through double teams. And I'm doing well in the run compared to last year. I think I'm progressing as a player.
"I've been getting back there a lot these past three weeks. It's eventually going to come. I've just got to let them come to me."
Solomon Thomas is experiencing a similar lull in production. The 49ers 2017 first-round pick has just one quarterback hit heading into the fourth week of the season. That's not too dissimilar from Buckner's rookie season in which he waited until Week 6 to get his first sack. Buckner ultimately finished the year with six and is preaching patience to his young understudy.
"It took me awhile in the start of the season. I told him don't get frustrated with it, just learn from it," Buckner of Thomas. "I told him I was in the same exact position as you last year, and I didn't get me a sack until halfway through last season. And I ended up having a really good year because I would really focus on the things I wasn't doing and just really focusing on my technique and how to get better every week and take care of my body. And towards the end of the season, everything started falling together."
Both Thomas and Buckner have a chance to get on the stat sheet on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Last week, the Cardinals allowed six sacks on quarterback Carson Palmer against the Dallas Cowboys, and the quarterback has been sacked a total of 11 times this season. San Francisco's defense will be looking to ignite its pass rush, which only has three sacks on the year.
"The whole D-line, we start licking our chops when we have stationary quarterbacks that won't get out of the pocket and try to make something shake like Russell Wilson," Buckner said of Palmer. "I'm definitely excited to get after it this week and just be more dominant as a front."