FOOTBALL

Niners linebackers covet spotlight roles in Super Bowl LVIII

Feb 9, 2024, 9:21 AM | Updated: 9:24 am

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw #57 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a play against the Seattle Seahaw...

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 29: Linebacker Dre Greenlaw #57 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a play against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 29, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw can finish each other’s sentences because of the amount of time they’ve spent together. On Sunday, the 49ers’ linebacker tandem is considered crucial to helping San Francisco finish its mission in Super Bowl LVIII.

Warner, the second-highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL behind Roquan Smith of the Ravens, knows his role against the Kansas City Chiefs is hyper-critical. He’s the primary defender tasked with covering Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Warner was named first-team All-Pro in 2023, collecting 132 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a career-high four interceptions.

“You have to know where he’s at on every single play,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I think the best part about Fred is that he has the physical ability. He can do everything. He’s tall. He’s fast. He can blitz. He can do whatever you want him to do. But you can tell how much he studies the film, and how he’s able to adjust his coverage based (on) what team he plays. I think you have to know where he’s at on every single play. If you don’t, he will make a play happen that will be negative for us but positive for them. And so, someone you definitely have to account for.”

NFL Next Gen Stats underscores the importance of the key matchup Sunday: Kelce led all NFL tight ends during the regular season with 393 receiving yards, when a linebacker was assigned in coverage. Warner gave up a 61.9 passer rating as the nearest defender in coverage, the lowest among NFL linebackers. He also intercepted Mahomes in the Super Bowl LIV matchup with Kelce catching six passes for 43 yards and one touchdown.

Warner was a third-round pick in 2018. Greenlaw was a rookie in 2019, entering the league as a fifth-round pick.

Warner said the past two seasons Greenlaw has “made the leap” and playing at a Pro Bowl level. He is often identified by his physical nature which even Warner said “toes the line” on aggression.

Greenlaw credits his bond with Warner for his rise and their collective commitment in the offseason. He said he’s working harder and appreciating every moment with more focus now that he understands how difficult it is to get back to the Super Bowl.

“Training together in the offseason, it kind of starts there. We made a commitment to stay (in Santa Clara at the team facility) in the offseason, eat together,” Greenlaw said. “It’s a natural connection on the field, understanding what he’s thinking and then knowing what the offense is trying to do. You spend all this time together just to get that one win.”

Warner and Greenlaw grasp that the same applies to Kelce and Mahomes, who’ve been together since 2017.

“When you got great chemistry with somebody, you know where they’re at all the time,” Greenlaw said of the Chiefs’ duo.

Warner said the narrative feels obvious, perhaps even overstated, but he’s not putting too much thought into any “undercard” conversation in the NFL’s main event.

“I feel like that’s going to be the narrative throughout this week, going into the Super Bowl: ‘How are the linebackers going to stop Kelce and Mahomes?'” said Warner. “At the end of the day, the way I look at it, it’s going to take everybody. They are really good. I give them my respect. I’ve seen it on tape. I’ve seen it for a long time now from them doing it, and I’ve seen it in person in the biggest game.”

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Thursday that all of the team’s injured players were able to participate in practice in a limited capacity: tight end George Kittle, defensive tackle Arik Armstead, cornerback Ambry Thomas and linebacker Oren Burks.

–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media

Thank you for reading SactownSports.com. Follow us on Twitter and Google News, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Newsletter

Football

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammates after catching a touchdown i...

Amiliano Fragoso

John Lynch, 49ers looking to keep Brandon Aiyuk ‘around for a long time’

The 49ers face a tough decision with WR Brandon Aiyuk, a player GM John Lynch is looking to keep in Santa Clara for a while.

23 hours ago

Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans drops back and looks to throw a pass during the first half of...

Amiliano Fragoso

QB Carousel: Who’s in, who’s out of the 2024 NFL scouting combine

The 2024 QB class features six gunslingrs who could be taken in the first round. Here's who will be throwing at the NFL combine this week.

1 day ago

Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers on the sideline during a game against the San Francisco ...

Amiliano Fragoso

Reports: Shanahan, 49ers interview Brandon Staley for DC job

Kyle Shanahan confirmed Monday that the 49ers have met with Brandon Staley, and other candidates, as the search for their new DC winds down.

2 days ago

Josh Jacobs #28 of the Las Vegas Raiders walks off the field after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs...

Amiliano Fragoso

Report: Raiders attempting to re-sign Josh Jacobs, will not use franchise tag

The Las Vegas Raiders will not franchise tag star RB Josh Jacobs, expected to try and re-sign him long-term during free agency.

2 days ago

Las Vegas Raiders logos are shown on a wall before a game between the Raiders and the Los Angeles C...

Joseph Jarosz

Las Vegas Raiders add JoJo Wooden as Senior Director of Player Personnel

The Las Vegas Raiders have named JoJo Wooden as their new Senior Director of Player Personnel. Wooden spent time with new GM Tom Telesco with the Chargers.

2 days ago

A detailed view of the NFL Combine logo at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 02, 2023 in Indianapolis, Ind...

Amiliano Fragoso

How to watch 2024 NFL Scouting Combine: Key players, schedule

The 2024 NFL Scouting Combine is set to kickoff this week from Indianapolis, here's how you can catch the action on the road.

2 days ago

Niners linebackers covet spotlight roles in Super Bowl LVIII