There were multiple reasons the 49ers finished 4-12 in 2018.
Injuries knocked out quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and No. 1 running back Jerick McKinnon early. The Reuben Foster situation. The lack of an edge rusher. Weaknesses at linebacker, the regression of cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and injuries to safeties Adrian Colbert, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward also were critical.
So, there are many areas to strengthen as the 49ers roll into the offseason.
But the secondary is a priority.
While veteran cornerback Richard Sherman was a bright spot, the rest of the crew couldn’t stay healthy or consistent.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus just came out with its end-of-season rankings, and judged the 49ers to have the worst secondary in the NFL in 2018.
“Richard Sherman’s presence could only do so much to prop up the league’s worst unit,” wrote PFF’s Michael Renner. “The free-agent corner only allowed 25 catches in 14 games this season, but injuries and a ton of busted coverages are why they still sit at the bottom. Eleven other players besides Sherman received at least 100 snaps in secondary, and none graded higher than 66.7 overall.”
And, 66.7 isn’t good.
The 49ers gave up 35 touchdown passes this past season and allowed opposing QBs a 105.4 quarterback rating (both were second worst in the NFL).
Certainly, the secondary was hit hard by injuries. Coordinator Robert Saleh had a tough job, putting together patchwork combinations and using inexperienced players. Simply having better health in 2019 might allow the 49ers to greatly improve.
But, expect the team to look for help in free agency and the draft, too.
Saleh isn’t going anywhere, though. Shanahan already said he’ll be back and that he believes in him.
Said Shanahan: “Saleh is a very, very good coach. He always has been. He still is, and he’s not a finished product, either, like we all aren’t. I think Saleh will continue to get better because he works at it.”