SANTA CLARA – After a slow start, 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is looking every bit like the No. 7 overall pick in the draft.
Buckner is coming off the best game of his rookie season, recording 11 tackles with two tackles, two sacks and four quarterback hits in the 49ers’ 23-17 loss to the New York Jets.
“The more he plays the more he understands what we’re trying to get accomplished over there,” said 49ers coach Chip Kelly, who recruited Buckner to play at Oregon. “He plays with such great effort and such a great motor and just loves playing football.
“I think he’s been trained for this. I know the background that he came from. I think he’s trained to play with great effort. I thought he was trained to understand what it takes. So, I think that’s a benefit of getting a kid from where we got him from.”
Buckner played all 87 defensive snaps in the game. He leads NFL interior defensive linemen in number of plays despite sitting out a game earlier this season with a foot injury.
“It’s awesome, isn’t it? It’s so awesome,” 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “He wants to be out there.
“The reps he’s been able to get and how much he’s been able to grow has been great for him.”
Buckner has seemed to make progress in maintaining leverage for a 49ers run defense that still ranks last in the NFL. He has made improvements in that area, while also tying for the 49ers lead with five sacks.
“I think he’s really progressed as the year went on,” O’Neil said. “Actually, early in the season, he was making most of his plays in the run game. Then, he was making a lot of plays with exceptional effort. And I’ve think we’ve seen him transform into a guy who can now make plays in the run-pass game. He’s been unbelievable.”