After a slow start to the season, DeForest Buckner, along with the rest of the San Francisco 49ers roster, looked disappointing. The rookie had growing pains initially as he got used to the NFL, but towards the end of the season he finally found is form and took off as one of the leagues feared pass rushers.
Buckner has finally learned to utilize some of the raw talent we saw during his college football career in Oregon. He has shown great strength in coming off of blocks and has great closing speed when chasing down a scrambling quarterback.
During the Cardinals week 10 match up he showed both of these skills on this 3rd quarter play.
Buckner comes off of the snap fast and pushes off the first blocker to break towards the outside, this allows the edge rusher pull a stunt towards the inside. He then shoves off of the Cardinals left tackle, Jon Wetzel, and gets a free run at Carson Palmer who is rolling out of the pocket. Palmer is forced to throw it into coverage and is nearly intercepted.
Although Buckner ultimately made the hit on Palmer that forced a bad pass out of Palmer, the play was created by the interior rushers. Buckner, though, has the ability to create plays by himself using his speed and strength, as demonstrated on this week 14 play against the New York Jets.
DeForest Buckner is matched up one on one against Jets tackle Ben Ijalana on the edge. He makes a move towards the inside, then uses his agility and speed to beat Ijalana on the outside after pushing off of him. This gives him a free run at quarterback Bryce Petty for an easy sack.
He can make the same type of plays on the interior as well as he showed a few weeks later against the Los Angeles Rams. On this third quarter play, he throws off Rams Guard Jamon Brown, then quickly closes down on Jared Goff for a sack.
Jamon Brown had trouble blocking Buckner on the interior all day, and was again totally beaten allowing Buckner to reach the quarterback at the same time as his opposite edge rusher to force a bad throw from Jared Goff.
Even when he is properly blocked, Buckner’s closing speed can be an issue to offenses when a quarterback extends a play within the pocket.
On this second quarter play, Goff is forced to scramble from the pocket after his offensive line breaks down. Rams Center Tim Barnes does a good job keeping Buckner at bay initially, but as the play breaks down, Goff scrambles towards his right (away from Buckner). Buckner releases himself from his opponent, then manages to run across the entire play to hit Goff from behind as he throws. Goff still completes the pass, but his throw his short and behind the receiver leading to minimal gain. Buckners speed in getting across the formation helps hold the Rams to a minimal gain despite Goff escaping the first wave of rushers.
DeForest Buckner is obviously still not one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers yet, and may not be as good as his rookie counterpart Joey Bosa of the Chargers. He has had good games against some of the leagues weaker offensive lines, but has a tendency to fall into the background when facing harder opponents. His late season form shows a lot of promise, though, and he may have the potential to be one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers in the future. He has a lot of raw talent, great speed and as he becomes more accustomed to the NFL he should only get better over the next few years.
Not much from the 49ers 2016 showed promise for the future. Their defense is nothing like the unit they had put together just a few years ago that was key in a 2012 Super Bowl run. San Francisco will need to rebuild almost every part of their roster over the next few years, and Buckner may become a key piece to on their defensive line.
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