General manager John Lynch believes the 49ers' pass defense was pretty good last season.
And the numbers unequivocally support him.
Cornerback was a position the 49ers were expected to address during the NFL draft. But Lynch and the 49ers decided to pay more attention to other positions, including the addition of South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the No. 14 overall pick.
The 49ers continued their trend of investing high draft picks on defensive linemen. Kinlaw became fifth defensive lineman the 49ers selected in the first round of the past six drafts.
"We were the No. 1 pass defense in football," Lynch said. "And I think a lot of people point to up front, and, yeah, that is our philosophy. We build up front. I know from playing that position, when those guys are humming up front, when they're putting pressure on a quarterback, when they're knocking him down, when they're sacking him, it makes your job a lot easier."
The 49ers last season ranked as the top pass defense in the NFL, allowing just 169.2 net yards passing per game. It was the lowest mark for an NFL defense in a decade – since the New York Jets allowed 153.7 yards passing in 2009.
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In the 2019 offseason, the 49ers signed veteran Jason Verrett, who got on the field for only a handful of snaps due to a knee injury. They brought in no contributing players a year ago. This offseason, the club did not add a veteran or a select a defensive back in the draft. The team's biggest move was to re-sign free safety Jimmie Ward.
Lynch said he believes in the 49ers found a formula with their pass rush, coverage on the defensive backfield and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's handling of the defense to enjoy sustained success. He said he believes the secondary was every bit as responsible for team's strong pass defense as the front four.
"It all works together and it's all tied together," Lynch said. "So the back end played a lot better than people seem to think."
This is a pivotal season for the defensive backfield, as cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon, nickel back K'Waun Williams and safety Jaquiski Tartt are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Emmanuel Moseley, who took over for Witherspoon as a starting cornerback in the postseason, is scheduled to be a restricted free agent.
"We like that group. We like everything they bring," Lynch said. "We understand we're going to have to pay some attention to it moving forward."
Why GM John Lynch believes 49ers DBs played better than people think originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area