Willis’ play speaks loudly as part of 49ers’ D-line rotation originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SANTA CLARA — The 49ers originally acquired defensive lineman Jordan Willis in a 2020 midseason trade.
The price was not steep.
The 49ers obtained Willis and a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft from the New York Jets in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2022.
Willis does not say much — even to those who have a locker near him inside Levi’s Stadium.
He might be unassuming, but Willis has produced big results for the 49ers.
Willis signed one-year contracts in each of the past two offseasons with the 49ers. The 49ers keep wanting him, and he keeps coming back, because he has found a system that suits his skills.
The 49ers place an emphasis on being aggressive and getting up the field, rather than reading and reacting.
“The best attribute about me is just going fast,” Willis said. “If I can go fast without having to process a lot, that’s what this scheme allows me to do. I think that helps out a lot of players.
“Yes, you have some stuff you have to think about, but for the most part, you’re just going. You’re playing and you’re not waiting on this person or that person and reacting.”
Willis has served a valuable role as part of the 49ers’ defensive line rotation. He registered 7.5 sacks in 26 regular-season games since coming to the 49ers.
He had a sack-strip in Week 18 against the Arizona Cardinals that produced a takeaway and led to insurance points in the team’s 38-13 victory.
In 43 NFL games since 2017 before coming to the 49ers, Willis had just three sacks.
With the 49ers trailing 10-3 with less than five minutes to play on a snowy evening at Lambeau Field, Willis broke through and blocked a Green Bay punt.
Talanoa Hufanga picked it up and returned it 6 yards for the game-tying touchdown.
On the final play of regulation, Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal sealed the 13-10 upset victory.
That is the exciting part of the playoffs, Willis said. Anybody can become a hero at the snap of a finger.
“We have a number of people who were ready to step in and do what they need to do when their number is called,” Willis said. “And you don’t know who that’s going to be on any given week.
“Our top players are always going to play, but that could be Jauan Jennings one play, Brandon Aiyuk one play, Charles Omenihu one play or Samson [Ebukam] one play. We have a lot of guys who can make plays at different times and make an impact.”