49ers believe Warner's coverage ability underrated among LBs


SANTA CLARA — Fred Warner has been getting more accolades for his coverage skills, but for his 49ers teammates -- this is nothing new.

Nick Bosa told NBC Sports Bay Area that he noticed Warner’s skill set as long as he has been in the league.

“That’s been his strong suit since he came in,” Bosa said. “Just his movement skills are crazy for how big he is. I think that’s why people around the league respect him so much. Obviously, he plays run, and that’s usually what you get the accolades for as a linebacker, but he’s like a safety, movement-wise.”

Not only has Warner notched 10 pass breakups in 2022, but he has also snagged two interceptions. Of the All-Pro’s 1,137 defensive snaps, 693, or nearly 61 percent in coverage. Warner leads the team with 130 regular season tackles — 79 solo and 51 assists. 

“I think people like talking about the Miami game,” Bosa said. “The route they were running, where the backers usually aren’t deep enough, but with Fred back there, it’s a different story. I don’t think it’s a new thing at all. He’s always been like that and I think guys within this organization know it more than anybody.”  

Warner showed his elite coverage skills even more recently in the divisional game win over the Dallas Cowboys, allowing only two receptions for eight yards on five targets.

Warner also showcased his speed closing a 9.7-yard gap between him and Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb at the snap to a tight window when the pass arrived (0.8 yards), forcing an incompletion according to NextGen stats.

Warner stayed within two miles per hour of Lamb’s speed through the entire route.

Arik Armstead believes Warner is the perfect example of what a linebacker needs to be for how the game has evolved. With NFL offenses not being as focused on the ground game as they once were, linebackers are forced to cover the top wide receivers in the league -- and Warner can do it all.

“Linebackers like Fred have changed the game,” Armstead said. “When there were run-heavy offenses, linebackers were 260 pounds. Teams were running the ball 30-40 times a game. Linebackers have to be so versatile and I think he is the gold standard of what that position has become and he gives people the blueprint of how to do it.”

But not everyone can.

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Not every linebacker can stop the run, and cover the likes of Seattle Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf. Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir has been impressed by the veteran’s ability to stay in step with the league's top wideouts.

“He’s different,” Lenoir told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. “The best in the world, really. Literally. Just me seeing it on film, it looks crazy being able to be 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and able to move — running with a No. 1 wide receiver. That’s crazy to see. He’s really like Superman.”

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