Pro Football Focus Identifies the 49ers' Biggest Strength

With all due respect to Pro Football Focus, allow me to retort.
Jan 28, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; (Left to right) San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (54), quarterback Brock Purdy (13), offensive tackle Trent Williams (71), running back Christian McCaffrey (23), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19), and tight end George Kittle (85) celebrate after winning the NFC Championship football game against the Detroit Lions at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 28, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; (Left to right) San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (54), quarterback Brock Purdy (13), offensive tackle Trent Williams (71), running back Christian McCaffrey (23), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19), and tight end George Kittle (85) celebrate after winning the NFC Championship football game against the Detroit Lions at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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The 49ers have a ton of strengths, so it's hard to identify their biggest one.

You could make an argument for lots of different aspects of their team. Recently, Pro Football Focus argued that the 49ers' biggest strength is their offensive playmakers.

"San Francisco had three players who ranked inside the top two of their position in overall grade last season — Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle," writes PFF. "They also had Deebo Samuel, who finished 12th among wide receivers in receiving grade. Simply put, the 49ers are still stacked with offensive weaponry."

With all due respect to Pro Football Focus, allow me to retort.

The 49ers playmakers are excellent to be sure. But the 49ers aren't an offensive team -- they're a defensive team. When it was time to close the deal in the overtime of the Super Bowl, they kicked a field goal from the 9-yard line and asked their defense to seal the deal, which it couldn't do.

And that's because the 49ers playmakers were not in the Super Bowl. Christian McCaffrey averaged a mere 3.5 yards per carry and fumbled. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk each caught just three passes and George Kittle caught two. The Chiefs neutralized all four of them at the same time.

Every time the 49ers faced an elite defense last season, their offense got shut down. And this offseason when the 49ers listened to trade offers for Aiyuk and Samuel, no team offered a first-round pick for either of them.

If I had to pick the 49ers' biggest strength, I'd go with their ability to defend the middle of the field. It's simply impossible to throw the ball over the middle against the 49ers when Fred Warner is out there, which is all the time. He has missed just one game in his career and he plays 96 percent of the 49ers defensive snaps.

He's their best player and their biggest strength.


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Grant Cohn

GRANT COHN

Grant Cohn has covered the San Francisco 49ers daily since 2011. He spent the first nine years of his career with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat where he wrote the Inside the 49ers blog and covered famous coaches and athletes such as Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick and Patrick Willis. In 2012, Inside the 49ers won Sports Blog of the Year from the Peninsula Press Club. In 2020, Cohn joined FanNation and began writing All49ers. In addition, he created a YouTube channel which has become the go-to place on YouTube to consume 49ers content. Cohn's channel typically generates roughly 3.5 million viewers per month, while the 49ers' official YouTube channel generates roughly 1.5 million viewers per month. Cohn live streams almost every day and posts videos hourly during the football season. Cohn is committed to asking the questions that 49ers fans want answered, and providing the most honest and interactive coverage in the country. His loyalty is to the reader and the viewer, not the team or any player or coach. Cohn is a new-age multimedia journalist with an old-school mentality, because his father is Lowell Cohn, the legendary sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle from 1979 to 1993. The two have a live podcast every Tuesday. Grant Cohn grew up in Oakland and studied English Literature at UCLA from 2006 to 2010. He currently lives in Oakland with his wife.