Getty 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw

You probably didn’t need the advanced NFL stats on the 49ers’ Dre Greenlaw to know that he had a tough time in Week 8 against the Bengals. The linebacker has struggled with shoulder and ankle injuries and has struggled to get up after a play on more than one occasion. Still, he was on the field for 60 snaps, or 95% of the 49ers’ total defensive plays.

He believed he could get through the pain because he was given painkilling injections, he said. But there was a problem with Greenlaw’s recordings: they didn’t work.

In retrospect, Greenlaw acknowledged that although he believed he was doing the right thing by playing in pain against Cincinnati, he probably did more harm than good.

“I thought if I got the shots maybe I would get better,” Greenlaw said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “And it didn’t feel the same. There are no excuses. As soon as you enter the field, you have to go. It’s experience. Lesson learned. If you can’t go, you can’t go. My attitude: I will always do everything I can to help the team. But I definitely didn’t help the team.”

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“Numbers reflect 49ers’ Dre Greenlaw struggles”

Dre Greenlaw had eight tackles in the game against the Bengals, but he had no sacks, no tackles for a loss and no quarterback hits. According to Pro Football Reference, he missed three tackles in the game after missing four tackles all season.

In coverage, quarterback Joe Burrow targeted him six times and Greenlaw allowed five catches, giving up a season-high 28 air yards and another 43 yards after the catch, a result of his tackling weaknesses. His grade on Pro Football Focus was just 51, well below the 67 he scored in Week 7 against Minnesota and well behind the 87 he scored in Week 5 against Dallas. Greenlaw missed Week 6 with a hamstring injury.

Of course, that loss to Cincinnati was the 49ers’ worst defensive performance of the season, with San Francisco setting season highs in points (31) and first downs (29) and giving up 400 yards for the second straight game, whatever the 49ers had not made since Week 7 of the 2017 season, Kyle Shanahan’s first appearance with the 49ers.

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“Hopefully we get a few more sacks”

While the 49ers’ Dre Greenlaw hasn’t played poorly so far, the series of injuries he’s suffered have helped derail what he hoped would be a breakout year under new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. He blitzes more and gets more opportunities to attack the quarterback, but doesn’t put up great pressure numbers.

Before the season, Greenlaw said he was confident Wilks’ defense would create opportunities for him.

“I hope so,” Greenlaw said of the 49ers Web Zone. “I’ve talked to him as well, and based on what we’ve done, there’s going to be a lot of ways he can keep up with us in terms of running backs. And whether he calls it out, whether we hug the running back or whatever he calls out, he’s definitely going to send us a lot more.

“So this should be fun. Hopefully we can get a few more sacks this year for sure.”

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They haven’t gotten more sacks, just 18 in eight games, after tallying 44 last year. Individually, Greenlaw got a sack. However, this week he participated fully in training and used the break to get healthy. Hopefully a better performance follows this week against Jacksonville.

Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter who covers the NBA and NFL for He has been writing for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of NBA reporting experience, including 17 years as a senior NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of seven nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley Were Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney

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