You may (or may not) have heard, San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner has embraced a new nickname this offseason. Linebacker Eli Harold announced on the 49ers Studios Podcast that "D-POY" (pronounced "DeePoy") is the new epithet for his teammate – a fitting name for Buckner who has his sights set to be league's most dominant defensive lineman.
The 2016 seventh-overall pick, more commonly known as "DeFo," will now have his teammates subtly reminding him of his objectives this season.
"I think it's funny. It's really motivating that the guys think of me that way," Buckner said. "It just makes me work harder because It's definitely one of the goals one day, and I've just got to work at it."
There's no question "D-POY's" talent was recognized well before the start of his sophomore season. Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett (who has worked alongside Buckner in the offseason) was bullish on Buckner's chances of becoming the league’s top defensive player.
It's obvious that Buckner's teammates share those sentiments.
Despite totaling just three sacks in 2017, Buckner still found ways to be disruptive. He led the league with 19 quarterback hits according to Pro Football Focus. Those may be admirable numbers for a second-year lineman, but to Buckner, almost doesn't count.
"It's really just finding that extra step when I get to the backfield. I've had too many 'almosts' and I'm really trying to find that extra step in my game," Buckner said. "I really think it's going to help me this year. I'm working on everything I can to work on that extra step so I can really finish those sacks.
"If I had that extra step, it could have been 19 sacks."
Over the last two seasons, Buckner has generated nine sacks, 88 total tackles, 33 quarterback hits, 66 stops and six passes defended. He earned the fourth-highest grade in PFF's top 10 sophomore standouts of the 2017 season. He was also ranked fifth among interior defenders with 53 total pressures.
As a whole, the 49ers struggled to get to the quarterback last season, finishing 26th in the league with 30 sacks. This offseason, they re-signed Cassius Marsh and added free agent Jeremiah Attouchou to compete as edge rushers. San Francisco could potentially add another pass rusher in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"We have the guys and tools to do it right now. If they want to go out and get guys to help the team, it's a benefit. Right now I think we have the pieces to do it. We just have to be more consistent," Buckner added. "Everybody's still going to have a lot of juice and be ready to go and get the season started."
Buckner has already proven to be a building block in San Francisco's defense. The stability of Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh only figures to increase his odds of becoming a dominant player. Sooner rather than later, we could see "D-POY" live up to the name.
View images of the 49ers first day of offseason program workouts.