Reuben Foster, Eric Reid Emerge as Enforcers on 49ers Defense

Robert Saleh's vision is already taking shape. His "all gas, no brakes" and "extreme violence" mantras were on display against the Minnesota Vikings.

Reuben Foster set the tone immediately. The rookie linebacker smacked Dalvin Cook on a swing pass for a 5-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. He later flattened Laquon Treadwell over the middle of the field in the second quarter.

Eric Reid, who has never been shy about delivering a big hit, had two emphatic third-down stops in the first half. Saleh acknowledged that he's urging every playing to adopt that type of physicality.

"I think every player can be gifted with that mindset to just go straight all gas and have that intent to physically impose your will on another human being," Saleh said. "That's mindset, that's not skill." 

Added Reid: "It's awesome to be in an environment where physicality is paramount. It's one of my favorite aspects of the sport. Everybody feeds off of each other. When one person makes a big hit, everyone else wants to make the next one."

San Francisco's starting defense pitched a shutout in the first half against the Vikings and took a 14-0 lead into the locker room. Minnesota aided the 49ers with two dropped passes that would have resulted in first downs. However, Saleh was quick to note that there was more to those miscues than a mere mental lapse.

Such mistakes happen when a defense makes their presence felt time and time again as the 49ers did on Sunday.

"Dropped passes happen, and that's also part of the system," Saleh said. "Those are things that we count on. You break concentration because you are trying to keep your head on a swivel. As long as we can keep that moving and keep that going in the (right) direction, I feel like we'll accomplish what we're trying to get done."

Much has been made of Reid's move to strong safety. It's a transitioned he's welcomed from the jump, and he's shown why the role fits him so well. For two straight games, Reid has been a sideline-to-sideline player who is constantly around the ball.

That's the goal. For an athlete with such elite size and athleticism, it makes more sense to put him at a position that will have him as active as possible. Reid was a great center fielder, but he's an even better enforcer.

"I'll be in a position to make more of those hits," Reid said. "Even though the rules have been changed to protect players, you can still impose that physicality in a legal manor. I believe that we do that."

Reid has eight tackles during the preseason.

Foster has 11, none more impressive than his hit on Cook to open last Sunday's game. Reid said he marvels at the linebacker's speed and recklessness.

"He'll run through a brick wall," Reid said. "He throws his body around, and it's exciting. Especially in short down and distances, you need players like that."

On one run towards the left sideline, Foster bowled over Vikings guard Alex Boone and made a play on the ball carrier. It takes a second and third look at the replay to truly appreciate the individual effort.

Those are the moments that illustrate what Foster is capable of, both physically and mentally.

"You don't get a stat for running through a 300-pound offensive lineman, but it means something," Reid said. "The other offense knows it's coming. It all adds up."

The Carolina Panthers are sure to see Foster and Reid's highlights when they begin their Week 1 preparations. That's the beauty of it. Saleh's defense hasn't even taken the field during a regular season game and yet its potential is already on film.

It's why Kyle Shanahan held such a physical training camp – to give players a more seamless transition into a game situation. You won't see most of the 49ers starters during Thursday's preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, but Sunday provided evidence that Saleh's group is more than ready to get the 2017 season under way.

"I feel confident," Reid said. "We are all excited."

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