Richard Sherman gushes over 49ers defense's potential, if discipline improves

·3 min read

Sherman raves about 49ers' defense, calls for more discipline originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 49ers' defense has the potential to be one of, if not the best, in the NFL this season.

That is, of course, if they can get out of their own way.

Former All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, now an analyst on Amazon Prime Video's "Thursday Night Football" broadcast, joined NBC Sports Bay Area's Carlos Ramirez for an exclusive "49ers Talk" podcast interview, where he discussed all things concerning San Francisco's defense and explained what coordinator DeMeco Ryans' group needs to do after committing 12 penalties in the 19-10 Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears at Solider Field.

"It's being disciplined. The coaches will harp on it," Sherman said. "I'm sure the players will emphasize it this week, and they'll emphasize it going forward. It's the first game, and you just can't have those things happen. Those are physical aggression penalties. Guys are trying as hard as they can. It's not like guys are being totally undisciplined, but you got to pull off at certain times, you got to watch your hands and you just got to be better than they were last week, and they will be."

One of the 49ers' bright spots Sunday was second-year pro Talanoa Hufanga, who led the team in total tackles (11), two of which went for a loss, and came away with the lone interception of a Justin Fields pass. Sherman believes Hufanga will be an important piece for a secondary that has the potential to be one of the league's best.

"He was all over the place," Sherman said of the safety. "He was energetic, he was disciplined, he was taking his shots, he believed what he saw. Obviously studied the film and knew this team very well, and he trusted his instincts. And when Jimmie Ward comes back -- as I said earlier in the year -- they're going to be one of the best secondaries in football.

"That secondary is going to be very special, and I think Talanoa Hufanga is going to be an outstanding player for a long time."

Another important piece to the secondary is veteran cornerback Charvarius Ward, whom San Francisco signed as a free agent in the offseason. Sherman believes Ward's addition will help free up the entire 49ers defense, creating a ripple effect all the way up to the front seven.

"They'll be able to play a lot more man coverage. They're very sticky in man coverage," Sherman said of Ward's impact. "They'll be able to bring pressure with [linebackers] Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, and the man pressure you're not able to bring if you don't have a really solid man-to-man corner. You're only able to play certain zones and are able to put them in certain situations. But with him, you're very versatile, and he gives DeMeco Ryans a lot more flexibility."

One player whom the 49ers don't have to worry about whatsoever is defensive end Nick Bosa, a former Sherman teammate in San Francisco. If Bosa is healthy, Sherman believes the sky truly is the limit for the fourth-year pro, and predicts he'll take home the league's most prized defensive award this season.

"I don't see no ceiling with Nick Bosa," Sherman added. "I think he can be the best player in the National Football League -- he continues to show that week in and week out. I think he's going to be Defensive Player of the Year this year as long as he continues, and if he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit."

RELATED: 49ers overreactions: Is Week 1 loss to Bears cause for panic?

If the 49ers' defense can learn from its mistakes in Week 1, the unit should be able to bounce back nicely Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 at Levi's Stadium. And if Sherman's expectations for the defense come to fruition this season, the 49ers could be set up well to make another deep playoff run.

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