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49ers Film Room: Free-agent linebacker Korey Toomer

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49ers free agent linebacker Korey Toomer
© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers added an important piece to their interior defense with the signing of free-agent linebacker Korey Toomer to a one-year contract. We break down the former Los Angeles Charger’s game film to see where he will fit best in the Niners’ 2018 defense.

 

On Wednesday, the San Francisco 49ers signed former Los Angeles Chargers inside linebacker Korey Toomer to a one-year, prove-it deal with the team:

Soon after the 49ers’ official announcement, Toomer tweeted that his family and the Niners’ organization have a history, as his father once tried out for the team:

The Seattle Seahawks drafted Toomer in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, but the linebacker never played a regular-season snap with the Seahawks due to injury. After two seasons in Seattle, Toomer bounced between three additional teams before finding a home with the Chargers — first in San Diego, and then in Los Angeles.

Toomer played in 28 games over two years with the Chargers, starting eight games each season. Toomer was primarily used as a run-stuffer at inside linebacker, and also spent some time on special teams. Toomer earned Pro Football Focus overall grades of 80.3 and 81.2 over the past two seasons; The Athletic’s David Lombardi noted that the linebacker had the NFL’s top run-stop rate in 2016, and tenth highest run-stop rate last season, per PFF.

Toomer is quite familiar with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4-3 under/over defensive scheme, as he began his career in Seattle under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and then played under Bradley in 2017 with the Chargers. Toomer’s two years with the Seahawks also coincided with Saleh’s time as an assistant in Seattle.

So, where does Toomer fit into the 49ers’ defensive scheme?

Toomer’s game film with the Chargers is consistent with PFF’s grades for the linebacker, who is a force in the run game. Toomer fits in as an inside linebacker in Saleh’s scheme as opposed to a SAM linebacker, and could be slotted in at either MIKE or WILL.

At MIKE, Toomer commanded the defense, and appeared to have a full grasp of his fellow defenders’ responsibilities. He showed the ability to shed blocks — or avoid them altogether thanks to his speed and footwork. At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, he certainly has the size to play the position, but as opposed to being a banger who seeks out contact like many MIKE linebackers, Toomer tends to use his quickness in tight spaces to avoid block attempts.

If fellow linebacker Reuben Foster returns next season without a lengthy suspension, Saleh could easily plug Toomer in at WILL, as the linebacker has the range to work sideline-to-sideline to chase down ball carriers. He’s good in pursuit, and has a non-stop motor, often helping defenders who miss tackles down the field:

If Foster isn’t available at the beginning of the 2018 season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 49ers begin the year with Toomer and Malcolm Smith as the team’s two starting inside linebackers — provided the team doesn’t add to the position early in the upcoming NFL Draft. If Foster is available, he’s a lock to start at MIKE, with Smith and Toomer — and potentially Brock Coyle — competing for the second inside linebacker spot. The team could also use a rotation of players depending on down-and-distance, particularly due to Smith and Coyle’s added experience at the SAM position.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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