There were times early in Dre Greenlaw’s rookie season when he wasn’t a big part of the 49ers defense.
Over a six-game span in September and October, the young linebacker played only 51 total snaps on defense and was in on just five tackles.
But by the end of the season, Greenlaw was a high-impact starter. Beginning in Week 9 against the Seahawks, Greenlaw never played less than 90 percent of the defensive snaps and three times had more than 10 tackles, while adding an interception. In three playoff games, too, he was a key player and had 14 total tackles and a forced fumble.
But it was his game-saving tackle at the end of the 49ers’ regular-season finale – preserving a 26-21 victory and the NFC West championship and earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs -- that put him in the 49ers’ history book. Greenlaw hit Seahawks’tight end Jacob Hollister with a ferocious shot that stopped him inches from the goal line.
It may have been the Niners’ biggest defensive play of the year.
Said Greenlaw’s teammate, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner: “It was one of the greatest play I’ve ever seen being made live.”
Now, with next month’s training camp on the horizon, Greenlaw – who was selected to the All-Rookie Team of the Professional Football Writers of America – wants to be a better overall player in Year 2.
Certainly, he’ll start in 2020, but Greenlaw told Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee recently that he’s preparing for both outside linebacker roles, the strong-side and weak-side jobs (with Fred Warner in the middle). Greenlaw has been working out this offseason in Houston and Arkansas (where he went to school), and wants to be completely familiar with responsibilities and techniques at both spots.
Once training camp starts, he’s eager to build on 2019 and show coaches and teammates he’s going to take another step forward. After last season, he knows he can play with the best players in the league.
“It definitely gave me a big confidence booster,” Greenlaw told reporters last month. “And it also just helped me to know that I’m able to not only play in the NFL but it also gave me a boost for seasons to come, and I’m excited just to continue to grow and build off my first year. I feel like I’m only going to get better from here on out.”
The starting date for the 49ers’ training camp has yet to be announced.