SANTA CLARA — Is Dee Ford the stud the 49ers think he is?
This offseason, they traded a second-round draft pick in 2020 to the Kansas City Chiefs for Ford, a 28-year-old defensive end, then gave him a five-year, $85.5 million contract extension, because they think he can transform their defense.
Last season, the 49ers’ defense ranked 13th in yards allowed, a respectable ranking. But it also ranked 21st in third-down defense, 26th in red-zone defense, 28th in points allowed and dead last in takeaways.
It was a bad defense in general.
“We have a functional, sound scheme,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh explained during minicamp. “The way it’s built can keep yards at bay. When you start inserting playmakers like Dee Ford, now you get to your efficiency downs, like third down and red zone, where there’s more pressure being put on the offense to make quicker decisions, to fit balls in tighter windows, to do things out of their character. That’s where (Ford is) going to make the biggest difference. We should hopefully see a much more efficient defense.”
Ford recorded a career-high 13 sacks last season and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. And yet, the Chiefs didn’t offer him a long-term extension — they gave him the franchise tag and placed him on the trade block. Apparently, they had questions about how good he really is.
These are the questions Ford must answer next season: