Niners' Warner Evolving Into a Special Linebacker

Shanahan says second-year middle linebacker -- just named NFC Defensive Player of the Week -- came in hungry this training camp and is playing at a higher level than his good rookie season of 2018

Fred Warner had a good rookie season. Now he’s having a great second season.

Warner, the 49ers’ athletic and quick middle linebacker, has evolved into the leader of the San Francisco defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Through 11 games he leads the 49ers with 81 tackles (including six for loss), has three sacks, for sacks and four passes defensed. This follows up on his rookie season when he had 124 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles.

And, Warner appears to be improving as the season progresses. He had 11 tackles, a forced fumble (that led to a touchdown) and a sack Sunday night in San Francisco’s 37-8 victory over the Packers that improved the team record to 10-1. Over the past three games he has 33 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles while playing almost every snap on defense. He ranges from sideline to sideline and is solid against both the run and in pass coverage.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan says Warner keeps growing.

“That’s what you expect out of a guy in his second year, especially with how much he played his first year,” Shanahan told Keiana Martin of “But it doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes, guys have a real good first year and they relax a little bit thinking they figured it out and then you get extremely humbled the second year.

“Fred got to play a ton and exceed expectations, I think, with everyone his first year. Then he was just even more hungry, came back like a 10-year vet and came back better mentally, better physically and I think it’s shown to everyone in every game.”

For his performance against Green Bay, Warner was honored as NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Warner and his defensive teammates face a strong test this Sunday, however, when they take on the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is balanced offensively, with young quarterback Lamar Jackson able to break down defenses with his speed running the ball and with his accurate passing. The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing.

Oddsmakers have made the 9-2 Ravens six-point favorites Sunday. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. (Bay Area time).

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