What the expected return of Reuben Foster means to this 49ers’ Defense

It’s been said that one person doesn’t make a team, and it’s a true statement. But at times, one player can make a team that much better and more competitive. With the potential return of Reuben Foster in week six on the road in Washington, Niners Live discusses the impact his return will have on the defense.


Getting the Ferrari back on the road

Reuben Foster had only played 11 snaps in week one versus the Carolina Panthers before he left the game with a high ankle sprain. He’s only a rookie, but it was clear to all watching how well they played with him on the field and how average they played without him. Once he exited the game, it was if the air was let out of the stadium. In his limited time on the field, he recorded three tackles, one tackle for loss, and a pass break up. Also in those 11 snaps, he earned an 81.6 overall grade, 66.5 run defense grade, 84.0 pass coverage grade and a 60.0 pass rush grade, which was the best overall grade of any linebacker (via PFF). It was no secret how valuable Foster was to this defense, as Niners Live discussed in 49ers: Reuben Foster aka “The Ferrari” on a Mission for Greatness. Prior to his injury, Foster was as dominant as linebackers come.

The Reuben Foster affect

It was said that the ball seems to find Reuben Foster as if he’s a magnet, seeing as how he’s always around the ball. His nickname is the Ferrari, but by the way, he plays defense and gives offenses fits, it may change to Visa, because he’s everywhere you want to be. Rookie or not, Foster is ready for prime time, and when healthy, can truly help this 49ers defense. There is nothing he can’t do. Tackle, cover, blitz, you name it. His instincts and football IQ are through the roof. This play (as seen in the video) he made in preseason against the Minnesota Vikings, abruptly stopping rookie Dalvin Cook in his tracks, is just a small sample of his value and what he brings to the 49ers defense.

Even veterans like NaVorro Bowman seemed to play better with Foster on the field. Unfortunately, the return of Foster means Bowman will lose even more snaps as he did for a large portion of the game versus the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday when he was replaced by Brock Coyle. With a healthy Foster and Ray-Ray Armstrong playing very well, Bowman is likely to see his snaps decrease as Foster’s health increases.

Speaking of reduced snaps, here’s Bowman’s response:

“We had a conversation and I don’t know,” Bowman said. “They’re doing what they want to do. I don’t know. I don’t like it. No one likes coming out of the game, but I’m a team player” (via Eric Branch).

What to look for

The 49ers may very well ease Foster back into the lineup giving him limited snaps until he’s 100% back healthy, but make no mistake, once he’s back in the swing of things, look for this defense to take steps forward. Whether it be running backs getting on the edge and catching passes or tight ends running free, with Foster back in the rotation and Armstrong playing at a high level, a lot of those plays to running backs and tight ends will be limited. Again, one man doesn’t make a team, but this one man makes everyone on the defense better. Sadly though, the beginning of the Foster era also means the near end of the Bowman era.

In all honestly, Bowman just hasn’t looked himself this season. Luckily, with the return of Foster, Bowman will have much more support and less responsibility on passing downs. Both Foster and Armstrong are the 49ers best coverage linebackers. Before now, teams could spread the 49ers out and exploit the liability in coverage of Bowman. I’m not saying the return of Foster is the end of Bowman, but it will be very interesting to see how the linebacker rotation looks once he returns. Hopefully, with his return, also comes the 49ers first win. Call it wishful thinking, but that first win is much needed. Welcome back Reuben. Go Niners!

49er updates, interviews and news:

Hoyer recaps his play, Quote Roundup by playersfull highlights, and here’s what head coach Kyle Shanahan had to say about Sunday’s performance (via the team’s website).

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.

All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.