Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner has spent the first two San Francisco 49ers preseason games in a seat high above the field, wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt.
“I’m ready to get in for the whole half,” Buckner said before practice on Wednesday. “I haven’t seen the field the whole preseason so far, so I’m definitely excited to get out there.”
Buckner, along with other prominent starters on both sides of the ball, have been held out in order to keep the roster healthy before Week 1. That won’t be the case this Saturday in Kansas City, when Buckner, Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner will all make their preseason debuts.
“That’s the plan, to give them some game action,” said defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. “With Kwon, it’s always been the plan. With Fred, he’s taken a good amount of reps in the preseason, been practicing and all of that.”
In his fourth season with San Francisco, Buckner looks to improve on a career year in 2018, a year which saw the former first-round pick record a team-high 12 sacks and earn his first Pro Bowl selection. During the first three weeks of training camp, Buckner has looked even better, and he’ll finally get to show it in San Francisco’s thid preseason game.
Part of what’s made Buckner so dominant in camp has been addition of No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa, along with the trade that brought pass rush specialist Dee Ford in from the Chiefs.
“With the speed on the edge, Buck can continue to do what he does,” 49ers defensive lineman D.J. Jones said. “The guys out there help each other for sure.”
While recently, Buckner has been without Bosa (ankle) and Ford (tendonitis), he’ll get to team with returning stalwart Fred Warner and newcomer Alexander, and all three will be fresh despite the short week.
After an impressive rookie season as a starter, Warner hasn’t skipped a beat after missing OTAs following a minor offseason knee surgery.
With “green dot” responsibilities — tasked with relaying the defensive play call to his teammates on the field — Warner, like Alexander, has approached training camp with force, unafraid to hit and initiate contact after being eased back into game-like action.
“He feels faster, part of it’s because he’s really sure what he’s doing,” Saleh said. “He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s creating knock back when he tackles or at least thuds up. So, he’s triggering a lot quicker. The quicker he goes, the more impact he’s going to have.”
Coming off a torn ACL which prematurely ended his 2018 season, Alexander was signed by San Francisco shortly after the 49ers acquired Ford from the Chiefs in order to breathe life into what had been a lackluster pass rush.
Returning to practice during the second week of camp, Alexander looked eager to hit, even shouting “I love this s**t,” after meeting running back Matt Brieda with a thudding hit on an outside zone run.
Alexander hasn’t played in an NFL game in nearly 11 months. While this Saturday is just a dress rehearsal, it means a bit more for him.
“It’s time,” Alexander said. “Big plans this weekend… I’m ready to get out there and get my feet wet.”