Nick Bosa

49ers' Bosa admits slow start to 2023 season due to contract holdout

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SANTA CLARA — Nick Bosa believes his 44-day contract holdout from 49ers training camp had an impact on his play when the 2023 NFL season opened.

“I think a little bit,” Bosa said. “I think I’m trying to work on stuff on the run this year that I wasn’t able to do in camp.”

Bosa has 2.5 sacks in the 49ers’ first seven games of the season, lagging far behind his pace of last season when he registered 18.5 sacks and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Bosa parlayed the success of his first four NFL seasons into a contract that pays him the most of any non-quarterback in the NFL. He signed his five-year, $170 million extension just two days before the regular-season opener.

Not surprisingly, Bosa points to the 49ers’ Week 1 win over Pittsburgh as his worst game. He also felt as if he played nowhere near his best football in the 49ers’ Week 6 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

“I think I was thinking too much because I was trying to add something to my rush plan, which is not what I want to be doing during the season,” Bosa said. “I want to be locked-in on what I do best and just doing it throughout the whole year.

“But there’s no excuse at this point for that.”

Although Bosa might not be accumulating the sack numbers at this stage in the season, he still rates as one of the top edge rushers in the NFL, per PFF.

He leads the NFL with 14 quarterback hits. Only Las Vegas’ Maxx Crosby, Detroit’s Aidan Hutchinson and Dallas’ Micah Parsons have more than his 35 total quarterback pressures this season.

“I think I’ve played really good games this year that haven’t been sack games,” Bosa said. “Then in Cleveland I got one, and I thought it was one of my worst games. There are a lot of factors.”

Bosa said his focus going into games must be on getting off quickly at the snap of the ball and being physical at the point of attack.

“Everything else takes care of itself,” he said. “When I don’t do that, then I’m trying to play what I’m seeing and I’m a little step behind.”

The 49ers’ 15 sacks rank tied for 18th with three other teams. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and Drake Jackson share the team lead with three sacks apiece.

After registering five pressures, including three sacks, in the season opener, Jackson has not produced a sack or quarterback hit in the past six games.

The 49ers acquired edge rusher Randy Gregory in a recent trade from the Denver Broncos. He and Jackson are splitting time opposite of Bosa on third downs.

But there is no question that Bosa is the one who drives the 49ers’ pass rush.

“If you just stay the course, they’ll eventually come if you put yourself in the right positions,” Bosa said. “It’s a really long year, so hopefully in the biggest moments, that’s when they’ll come.”

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