Nick Bosa didn’t seem nearly as energized to win the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award as he was to mimic Baker Mayfield’s flag-planting celebration on Monday night.
“I couldn’t care less,” Bosa said Wednesday. “I’m just trying to keep playing and winning. We’ve got to win.”
Bosa will hope to replicate his two-sack performance Sunday against the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams. (It could have been three sacks if officials correctly ruled Mayfield was in Bosa’s grasp during an intentional grounding penalty the last play of the first half).
Bosa has three sacks on the season and is currently the NFL’s top-rated edge rusher, according to Pro Football Focus, through the first four games of his career. He’s first in pressure rate (28 percent) and pass rush win rate (26.9 percent) among all edge defenders, according to the scouting service.
Bosa on Monday night registered two tackles, five quarterbacks hits, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery against the Browns, leading to the weekly award, which likely won’t be his last.
Lining up across from Bosa in Los Angeles will be talented veteran Andrew Whitworth, who’s widely considered one of the most effective pass blocking offensive tackles in the league.
“He’s a savvy vet,” Bosa said of Whitworth. “He reminds me – I shouldn’t say this – but just some of the nuances he uses with his hands and stuff is similar to Joe (Staley), but Joe doesn’t want to hear that. He’s just smart. He knows how to hold you up for that little extra second when he needs it and when the quarterback needs it so it’s just like the small things that he does that I’ll have to adapt to.”
Bosa, the No. 2 pick in April’s NFL draft, has been perhaps the most important addition to San Francisco’s new-look defense that enters Week 5 ranked fourth in opponents’ scoring (14.2 points per game), second in total defense (258 yards per game) and fourth in yards per play (4.5). The 49ers are first in the league in opponents’ drives resulting in turnovers (21.3 percent) as Bosa played a role in two of Mayfield’s giveaways Monday.
On Cleveland’s second series, he pressured Mayfield into throwing an interception to cornerback Richard Sherman. Two series later, he recovered a fumble forced by tackle DeForest Buckner, who has also gotten off to a stellar start to the season. Buckner has registered a sack in the past three games.
Sherman said Wednesday he believes the 49ers’ defense isn’t getting the credit it deserves even while the team is 4-0 for the first time in 29 seasons.
“I think they’re doing everything they can to not take notice of our defense, for some reason,” Sherman said. “... Obviously, I want them to notice the guys just so the guys can get the respect they deserve. I don’t think the guys care. I don’t think it matters to them whether they’re recognized or not.”
The production Bosa has brought to the defense has been joined by a sense of confidence. His father, John, of course, was a first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1987. And his older brother, Joey, was a first-round pick of the Chargers in 2016 and has since become one of the better pass rushers in the NFL.
“It’s the same game we’ve been playing our whole lives and you shouldn’t be afraid of anybody or any task,” Bosa said.
“I just came in with the same confidence that I’ve always had.”
Bosa said he heard from a few of his Ohio State teammates who sounded happy he was able to get retribution in his performance against Mayfield after the former Oklahoma quarterback planted the flag on Ohio State’s home field after an upset win in 2017.
“That was a real thing,” Bosa said, noting he’s heard from a former Buckeyes throughout the NFL. “We wanted some revenge.”
How 49ers will move forward without Kyle Juszczyk
The biggest news to come out of Santa Clara on Wednesday was the injury to right tackle Mike McGlinchey. He’s going to have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and miss approximately four to six weeks. It means the 49ers are now down to Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill as their starting tackles, who were essentially the fourth and fifth options as the position after the team lost “swing” tackle Shon Coleman during the first preseason game with an ankle injury.
But the 49ers are also moving forward without their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, and don’t have another on the roster. ESPN reported Wednesday San Francisco worked out George Aston, Tommy Bohanon, Michael Burton, Derrick Coleman, Tre Madden, Ricky Ortiz and Aaron Ripkowksi. Shanahan said the team wouldn’t sign any of those players.
It’s likely tight end Ross Dwelley gets most of the playing time in Juszczyk’s absence, though the 49ers could also replace Juszczyk by using different personnel groupings and play calls.
“Definitely my role’s going to be changing a little bit to try and take that role of fullback and just try to do it as good as Juice does it,” Dwelley said Wednesday. “I am pretty ready. I’ve practiced it a little bit, just a worst-case scenario in case Juice gets hurt. It’s happening right now.”
Dwelley spent most of last season on the active roster after starting the year on the practice squad. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of San Diego. He re-worked his body in the offseason to become stronger which led to a strong showing in training camp. He entered the year as the clear No. 2 tight end behind George Kittle, who has become known for his offseason regimen while becoming one of the best at his position in the NFL.
“Being with George, you just get better,” Dwelley said. “He’s just such a good leader, such a good guy.”
▪ Dee Ford was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice after missing the first two practices of last week while continuing to deal with knee tendinitis. Players who missed the afternoon session: Juszczyk (knee), Staley (fractured fibula), McGlinchey (knee) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot).