Nick Bosa’s battles with new acquisition Trent Williams have been a featured attraction at training camp. (AP Photo/ Butch Dill)
The 49ers are all about life on the edge.
According to tradition, every NFL training camp must have a theme. Unfortunately, the 49ers do not have a quarterback controversy, so we can’t use that old chestnut.
Instead, attention has been fixed on the “edge.”
The edge is the mythical point of collision at both ends of the offensive and defensive lines. That’s where an “edge rusher” and an offensive tackle dance, push, hold and punch each other in a friendly kind of fight.
There’s a lot of money made out there at those positions. There are smart people who say an edge rusher, who can consistently get to the passer, is the second-most valuable position on a team.
The 49ers established themselves as a pass rushing defense last year and rode that quarterback pressure all the way to the Super Bowl. Nick Bosa virtually cemented himself as a local folk hero in his rookie year with nine sacks. Dee Ford had 6.5, in a season hampered by injuries. (Missing practice lately with minor injuries is worrisome with his history.)
But this year interest has ramped up because the 49ers have signed offensive tackle Trent Williams. And to say the reviews have been effusive is to understate. I don’t think I have ever heard so many people say, “I can’t wait to see the new offensive tackle.”
So yeah, there’s a lot of attention on the edge. Just ask someone in the edge – right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
“It’s been one of the favorite story lines for everybody outside the building,” he said in a virtual interview last week. “What’s going on on the edges? It’s exciting.”
McGlinchey often has to contend with Ford. And you can add McGlinchey to the number of players who bring up Ford’s speed without being asked. Just a note, when players point out someone is fast, that person is fast.
“He’s got that shot-out-of-a-cannon type of get-off,” McGlinchey said. “That’s how rare his speed and get-off is. When it gets to third and five, it is really hard to keep those guys off the quarterback.”
McGlinchey, as we often hear from players, has gone through an extensive off season workout program and is in great shape. Which we usually take with a grain of salt, except that Richard Sherman was so impressed with McGlinchey’s muscle tone that he began calling him “The Big Slim.”
I’m not able to speak to that on a video call, but I would say McGlinchey looks confident. Like he’s done this for two years, he’s been to the Super Bowl and he can handle it.
So can Williams. He’s good. And he knows he’s good. But he doesn’t have to be a jerk about it. The Bosa-Williams matches have been the featured attraction at training camp. Bosa said he tries to win half of his one-on-ones, but with Williams he’s had to adjust the curve.
“For me, going against Trent, I’m just trying to win whenever I can,” he said on a video call. “You’re not going to beat Trent clean very often. I’m definitely confident in Jimmy’s left side this year.
Williams could not be more generous in praise of Bosa.
“Nick is better than I thought he was, and I already knew he was (among the) top 3-4 in the game,” Williams said virtually. “I honestly see his trajectory as being one of the best in the game.”
Ok fine, but let’s start with matching, or improving, those rookie year numbers shall we? The way Bosa tells it, the 49ers’ brain trust has made it very clear they expect to get value for their money.
“Kris (Kocurek, D-line coach) made it pretty known to us that the front office doesn’t expect good out of us,” Bosa said. “They expect great.”
So yeah, you could say the edge is getting a lot of attention.
Which is an awkward transition to another Bosa story that didn’t get a lot of attention. Last week a local reporter reminded him that during the Super Bowl Week in February, a reporter from China asked him about the COVID virus. Although Bosa says he’d barely heard of the virus at the time, he knew enough about infectious disease to say in the interview that people should make a point to wash their hands. Which turned out to be very good advice.
“Shoulda listened,” he said with a smile. “Shoulda listened.”