Humboldt Beacon (http://www.humboldtbeacon.com)

49ers DeForest Buckner channels Justin Smith's unselfish move


By Cam Inman, Bay Area News Group

Thursday, December 7, 2017

SANTA CLARA – DeForest Buckner lined up on the right side of the 49ers defensive line. At the snap, he immediately engaged the Chicago Bears left tackle, hooked him with his right arm and then simultaneously took on the Bears left guard.
Meanwhile, Cassius Marsh rushed in untouched from the right edge to sack quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and force a fumble on a pivotal, third-down play.
To summarize: Don’t fret that Buckner went without a tackle for the first time in his career as the 49ers emerged with a 15-14 win.
That "grab-speed" move which Buckner made to spring Marsh free is exactly what Justin Smith unselfishly did many times for Aldon Smith in the 2011-14 seasons.
"I’ve seen Justin do that a lot in his career," Buckner said. "I thought it was ironic that we did that and he was at the game."
Smith, who retired after the 2014 season, indeed attended Sunday’s game. And he got a shoutout in film review this week from coach Kyle Shanahan, who showed the Buckner-Marsh play in film review and referred to Buckner’s fine impression of Smith.
"That’s a huge play," defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. "That’s a matter of his speed, his length, his strength and being able to get out there and help Cassius make the play."
Marsh made the grab-speed call, some two weeks after being claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots.
"That’s a play a lot of guys don’t typically use but it’s an unselfish play," Mitchell added. "That defines (Buckner) as a person. He’s unselfish, relentless and fast."
That play may not yield Buckner personal stats you’d expect from the 2016 draft’s No. 7 overall pick. It, however, is simply what Buckner’s job entails.
He lines up primarily over a guard, often attracts double teams and consistently hustles in pursuit of the football.
Buckner has played 80 percent of the defensive snaps, a sizeable workload. Last game, he was in for only 26 snaps, far below his average of 59 snaps per game this season. That’s because the defense played only 37 snaps overall, their fewest since 1991.
"It felt like we could strap everything back on and play another game," Buckner said.
Buckner got held on a couple plays that Sunday’s officiating crew did not flag. He drew double-team blocks on nine snaps. And the Bears ran the majority of their plays away from him.
Buckner wanted a career-high 10 sacks this season. He has only 1 1/2, and those came two months ago. His rookie season saw him produce six sacks and play over 1,000 snaps, more than any defensive linemen in the league.
Defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, this year’s No. 3 overall draft pick, isn’t putting up impressive stats, either. He has two sacks and 29 tackles, but no more than two tackles in any game since a career-high nine tackles Oct. 15 at Washington. However, Thomas did pressure and eventually hit Trubisky on a third-down incompletion in the third quarter Sunday, while Buckner raced in next to him to provide more pressure.
Chalk it up to another hidden assist from Buckner, like the Marsh sack.
"Being able to help my other teammates have success, it’s always an awesome feeling," Buckner said.
Next up for Buckner and the 49ers (2-10) is Sunday’s game at the Houston Texans (4-8). Tom Savage is in line to make his sixth straight start since Deshaun Watson’s season-ending knee injury. Savage got sacked four times in last Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, and that could make things more appetizing for Buckner & Co.
"We have a lot of young talent and have drafted a lot the past couple years," Buckner said. "The coaching staff is trying to keep it simple so we can play faster. There’ve been glimpses through the year, and at some point we’ll be able to do it throughout the whole four quarters."