There will be no shortage of star power when the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals meet on the field Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
One name Cincinnati is ensuring they account for ahead of this blockbuster matchup is 49ers All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner, whose hot start has placed him firmly in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow detailed why Warner is such a dynamic player and what separates him from other players at his position.
“Man, he’s fast,” Burrow told reporters on Wednesday. “He’s got really good ball skills in zone coverage, so you’ve got to always be aware of that. He flies around, makes big plays. Feels like he’s always around the ball, getting tips, creating big plays for their defense that not a lot of linebackers can make, so you always got to be alert for where he is. He’s going to make plays, you know it. You’ve just got to move on to the next one.”
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor knows Warner well, dating back to his days on the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff when the 49ers’ star linebacker broke into the NFL in 2018.
Taylor detailed how Warner’s experience in San Francisco’s scheme has allowed the All-Pro to continue to improve year after year and rightfully earn recognition among the most impactful defenders in the NFL.
“He’s a great player,” Taylor said. “He’s a great player. Again, don’t want to compare him to other guys, but he’s outstanding in their defense. He makes an impact on every single play he’s in there and plays really hard, plays really smart. Again, one of the top backers in the game. There’s no doubt about it.
“Instinct, confidence in the scheme, confidence in what he’s been asked to do. That’s experience in the scheme. They’ve made tweaks over the years, but really, for his career, he’s been in the scheme, he’s seen it evolve. He’s playing at a very high level. Just having watched him, really, over the entirety of my time with the Rams and here, he’s always been a great player, and he continues to improve every single year.”
Since being drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Warner has grown into the leader of one of the most vaunted defenses in the NFL over the last few seasons.
Following an uncharacteristic performance against the Minnesota Vikings last week, Warner and the 49ers’ defense aim to return to their dominant ways against the talented Bengals offense.
Brock Purdy will take the field in the 49ers’ Week 8 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium with the respect of two key figures on the opposing sideline.
In speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow praised Purdy for his performance on the field and his attitude as an NFL underdog after being selected by the 49ers with the No. 262 and final pick in the 2022 draft.
“He’s fun to watch,” Burrow said. “He makes a lot of plays, he’s accurate with the football, you can tell he studies and he knows where he’s supposed to go with it. He’s playing really well, he’s fun to watch.
“He’s gone about it the right way. What I always watch is body language on the field, and he’s very calm, cool and collected in a lot of situations. That’s cool to see from a guy that young playing, last pick in the draft, thrown into the fire really early and is playing really well for them.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters he studied Purdy before last year’s draft but not extensively and believes the second-year NFL quarterback has done well running coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.
“He’s done a great job. Really has done a really good job,” Taylor shared. “Again, you talk about intent, he understands the intent. He does a great job throwing with anticipation, he’s got a high level of toughness, you can see that as well.
“So again just trying to understand what they’re trying to get out of certain plays they got, keeping them on schedule. He made some plays with his feet the other day against Minnesota, that was critical. Just seeing him throw the ball down the field with anticipation, trusting his guys to be in the windows. He’s done a really good job executing that system and proving he’s a really good player in this league.”
Purdy was in the NFL’s concussion protocol for most of the week, but cleared the final hurdle on Saturday and officially will start for San Francisco under center on Sunday.
Fresh off back-to-back losses, Purdy and the 49ers will look to get back on track with a win against Burrow, Taylor and the Bengals at home.
Tune into “49ers Pregame Live” on NBC Sports Bay Area at 12 p.m. PT before the Week 8 matchup at Levi’s.