Pro Football Focus Ranks the 49ers Front-Seven Defense No. 31 in the NFL

The San Francisco 49ers endured a historically bad defense in 2016, so it’s not surprising Pro Football Focus ranked the Niners’ front-seven defense next to last in all NFL rankings for last season.

The San Francisco 49ers set historic lows — or highs, depending how you look at it — on the defensive side of the ball in 2016.

And these issues were pointed out by Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner, who detailed every NFL team’s front-seven defenses over the course of the regular season.

San Francisco came in at No. 31 overall, just above the defensively challenged Indianapolis Colts and behind the 30th-ranked Detroit Lions.

The Niners’ best player within this group was linebacker Gerald Hodges, who posted an 82.4 overall grade on the year. Not surprisingly, the worst was fellow linebacker Michael Wilhoite (38.5).

For note, rookie defensive end DeForest Buckner finished with a 77.2 PFF grade — best among interior San Francisco defenders. He’s one of the few bright spots.

Here’s what Renner had to say in summation:

The 49ers fielded one of the worst run defenses of all-time this season, allowing almost 400 more yards on the ground than any other team. They didn’t have a single player along the defensive line that could effectively hold up to double teams, and the stunts and games they ran to try and counter that only left them more susceptible to big plays. In almost any other season, they’d easily have been ranked dead last.

Of course we can attribute much of the problems to the season-ending losses of linebackers NaVorro Bowman (Achilles) and Ray-Ray Armstrong (pectoral). Having these two in the lineup on a regular basis would have made a notable difference.

Instead, San Francisco was forced to rely on backups like Wilhoite and Nick Bellore, who are little more than depth options on any other roster.

But hey, at least the Niners weren’t last. So fans can feel relatively good about that.

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