Before this season, the 49ers expected special teams standout Dekoda Watson to play a larger role on defense, giving the team another athletic pass rusher off the edge.
But Watsson tore a hamstring just before the start of the season and wasn’t able to get back into a game until last week, in the 49ers’ lopsided victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Now, as the 49ers get ready to play the New York Giants Monday night, it’s likely Watson, who had a big game against the Raiders, will get even more snaps on defense. Watson played just 17 snaps against Oakland as a defensive end in passing situations, when the 49ers brought in an extra defensive back, yet had terrific production, with 1½ sacks, three quarterback hits, four hurries and 5½ pressures.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus gave Watson its highest grade on defense in the game.
Watson, a 6-foot-2 NFL journeyman from Florida State, played 14 games with the 49ers in 2017 but had no sacks. For his career, he has just 5½ now over eight NFL seasons with Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Dallas, New England, Denver and San Francisco.
But Watson told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group that he’s quicker now and feeling fit after losing nearly 30 pounds since the hamstring injury by going to a vegetarian diet. His weight had risen to about 270 pounds in training camp and is now back into the 240s.
“Dekoda played very well, and I thought it helped a lot,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said of Watson’s contributions in his first game back. “Dekoda has probably got our best speed off the edge, just coming off the ball fast, and he can turn it into power very quickly.”
After getting just their second win of the season against the Raiders, the 2-7 49ers have a good opportunity to get another one against the 1-7 Giants. Watson was just happy to be contributing again and help his team get back on a winning track.
“It wasn’t about sacks,” he told Inman, of his contributions. “We needed energy and we need to keep positive momentum.”
Monday’s 49ers-Giants game at Levi’s is set for kickoff at 5:15 p.m.