In this series of 49ers Film Room, we break down the “Wide Nine” technique and its effect on the San Francisco 49ers’ 2019 defense. In Part 2, we review the Niners’ use of wide-9 — and “Double Wide-9” — defensive ends on passing downs and the key role of interior lineman DeForest Buckner.
This is the second installment in our 49ers Film Room series analyzing the wide-9 technique and the defensive changes the San Francisco 49ers plan to implement in 2019. You can check out the first piece from last week, which includes an introduction to the techniques and alignments, here on Lockedon49ers.com.
The changes coming to the 49ers’ defense in 2019 are a direct product of the team’s offseason additions of talented edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, as well as defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who has utilized the scheme extensively in the past. However, the biggest beneficiary of San Francisco’s new wide-9 alignment could be the Niners’ top defender from 2018: defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
In his third season in the league, Buckner established himself as a member of the NFL’s elite, as the former No. 7 overall draft pick led the 49ers with 12 sacks despite rushing from the interior of the defensive line. San Francisco’s 2019 wide-9 alignment should provide the star defensive tackle with the opportunity to build upon his impressive 2018 Pro Bowl season:
49ers and the Double Wide-9 on Passing Downs
As we recently discussed, during Robert Saleh’s two seasons in San Francisco, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator has frequently used “Ghost Nine” defensive ends to attack opposing quarterbacks on passing downs. Saleh often uses a four-man rush with two wide-9 or ghost-9 technique defensive ends and two modified 3-tech defensive tackles when he’s fairly certain the opposing defense is going to pass the football.
When the 49ers line up in this defensive alignment, Saleh regularly uses a larger defensive tackle — here, DT Sheldon Day — to tie up two offensive linemen, leaving the rest of the linemen in one-on-one situations. On the opposite side, Buckner lines up angled toward the quarterback in a modified 3-technique. Buckner’s positioning is often so wide on these plays, it could potentially be called a “Wide-3” technique:
With no concern for the necessary gap control that coincides with a potential rushing play, the three defensive linemen in one-on-one matchups can pin their ears back and attack the quarterback. On this crucial fourth-quarter play, defensive end Ronald Blair quickly slips past tackle right tackle Ricky Wagner, but the Lions have bigger problems on the left side of the line, as Buckner makes short work of rookie offensive lineman Frank Ragnow, tossing the guard to the side. The pair of defenders meet in the backfield, on top of quarterback Matthew Stafford:
The 49ers ran a similar play the week prior, as the Minnesota Vikings took the field with 12 personnel, before motioning running back Dalvin Cook out into the slot. With immobile quarterback Kirk Cousins alone in the Vikings’ backfield, San Francisco’s edge rushers were free to focus solely on rushing the quarterback. Here, the 49ers use a “Double Wide-9” defensive front, with both Solomon Thomas and Blair lined up in true wide-9 techniques — well outside the Vikings’ tight ends — with Buckner and defensive tackle D.J. Jones in modified 3-tech or 4i-tech alignments:
On this play, the 49ers’ pass-rushing assignments are roughly the same; Jones ties up the right guard and the center while looking to knock down any short pass over the middle, which allows each of San Francisco’s remaining defensive linemen to attack Cousins in one-on-one matchups.
Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff is concerned with Buckner, and attempts to slow the Niners’ top defender with a quick punch after the ball is snapped. Unfortunately for left guard Tom Compton, Reiff’s punch does little to stop Buckner, who shows impressive agility for a 300-pound DT as he bends around Compton before bringing Cousins down for the sack:
In 2018, even when the 49ers’ wide-9 defenders had little impact on a passing play, Buckner was consistently able to dominate interior offensive linemen in one-on-one situations. As expected, opposing offensive coordinators were forced to modify their blocking assignments to focus on stopping the 49ers’ star defender, but these strategic changes put the 49ers’ wide-9 pass rushers in even more advantageous situations. Next, we’ll break down how the presence of an elite interior rusher can allow the San Francisco 49ers’ wide-9 defensive ends to feast on opposing quarterbacks.
PODCAST: Seahawks Snap 49ers Unbeaten Streak in Overtime Thriller
- 49ers fall to the Seahawks 27-24 on Monday Night Football
- Russell Wilson gets three chances to win it in overtime for Seattle
- Rookie emergency kicker nails three field goals, but misses game-winner for SF
- Niners defense strong again, but offense stumbles
- Game notes and game balls
49ers Film Room: Breaking down QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s Top 5 Passes
After reviewing each of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s passes during his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers, we selected Jimmy G’s top 5 plays, and then broke each one down for this edition of 49ers Film Room.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo brought a great deal of excitement — and a number of impressive plays — to the Bay Area since general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan acquired the signal caller from the New England Patriots two years ago.
Jimmy G completed 333 passes over roughly 16 games since he was traded to San Francisco during the 2017 NFL regular season. After a tweet by Locked on 49ers Podcast host Brian Peacock during last week’s game sparked a debate about Garoppolo’s best throw as a Niner, we decided to participate in the enjoyable task of watching — and ranking — each of those 333 completions.
In the end, we concluded the following five plays are Garoppolo’s finest to date, and then we broke each one down [credit goes to Aaron Wilson of Insidethe49.com for the time-consuming video editing work] for today’s edition of 49ers Film Room:
No. 5: Garoppolo and Taylor Improvise for the Score
Like many of Jimmy G’s top plays, this one comes on a key third down in the fourth quarter of the contest. Garoppolo’s improvisational side-armed touchdown throw to wide receiver Trent Taylor extends the 49ers’ lead to two scores over the Jacksonville Jaguars — owners of the NFL’s best defense in 2017.
This play makes our list not because the pass was thrown with pin-point accuracy, but because Garoppolo did everything he could to give Taylor an opportunity to score: he extends the play, properly sets his base, changes his throwing motion to fit the pass between three defenders and puts the ball where only his receiver can make the play:
No 4: Garoppolo’s Perfect Touchdown Pass in his 49ers Debut
When Garoppolo was thrust into action against the Seattle Seahawks due to injury in 2017, he wasted no time making his mark despite his limited knowledge of Shanahan’s playbook. After moving the sticks with an 8-yard completion on fourth down, Garoppolo rushes the 49ers to the line with just two seconds remaining on the clock. Again, Jimmy G gets flushed to his left side, but makes sure to quickly set his feet before throwing the pass into the tightest of windows for his first touchdown as a member of the Niners:
No 3: Garoppolo Shows Grit on Third Down
Garoppolo is best on the money down — third down — and his willingness to stand tall in the pocket is on clear display during this third down completion to tight end George Kittle. The quarterback feels the heat of the Kansas City Chief’s pass rush, but despite the free blitzer bearing down on him, delivers the perfect pass needed to move the sticks:
No 2: The Garoppolo-Sanders Connection Is Real
The play that began this conversation comes in on our list at No. 2. On third down, Garoppolo recognizes man coverage, but is forced to release the pass to WR Emmanuel Sanders before his new wideout makes his break, trusting Sanders to run his route to perfection. Despite stepping on his lineman’s foot, Jimmy G throws a perfect pass to Sanders, who gets his head around in time to find the ball within his grasp:
No 1: Garoppolo and Pettis Kick off the 49ers’ 2018 Season
While it’s difficult to top the previous pass, Garoppolo’s first touchdown of the 2018 season comes in at No. 1 on our list. This play has checks all the boxes: Jimmy G correctly reads the defense, spins away from pressure, and then has a fraction of a second to find WR Dante Pettis streaking downfield before lofting a perfect 40-yard pass into his receiver’s hands in the back of the end zone for the score:
PODCAST: Shanahan Practice Report, Niners Add Gould Insurance
- First injury report for Week 10
- Kyle Shanahan speaks on who was in/out of practice Thursday, Russell Wilson and Monday Night Football
- Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey itching to get back on the field
- George Kittle and RObbie Gould not practicing
- 49ers sign kicker Chase McLaughlan