Donte Whitner did not have 2013 campaign to remember individually despite the team’s massive success. In the season’s waning quarters, the San Francisco 49ers‘ defense was diced by Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco — each special quarterbacks but that hasn’t stopped this unit from dominating before.
This all culminated in the final game, where as Pro Football Focus notes Whitner allowed a 145.8 quarterback rating and two touchdowns into his coverage. Allowing Jacoby Jones get behind the defense for one of the game’s most critical plays didn’t help either.
“It’s the Super Bowl,” Whitner said, via Bay Area Sports Group. “Coverage goes with rush, and on that play I don’t know if we had the best rush. We definitely didn’t have the best coverage. Joe Flacco was able to step up, throw it deep, and that’s exactly what we didn’t want all week long. So it’s on everybody. It’s not on Chris. It’s not just on the secondary. It’s not on the linebackers or the defensive line. It’s on everybody, because rush goes with coverage and on that play we didn’t have good coverage or we didn’t have good rush.”
Whitner is the type of thumping, physically intimidating strong safety that the Niners’ need. He fits their ethos and does it well. But with free safety Dashon Goldson gone and Eric Reid slated to likely start as a rookie — or perhapsCraig Dahl— San Fran will look to Whitner to step up his game in pass coverage in training camp, where he ranked 68th among qualifying safeties last season via PFF grading.
ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando believes the Niners entered this offseason very concerned with their secondary.
“The 49ers demonstrated by their actions this offseason a general belief that the secondary’s issues late last season stemmed more from a diminished front seven than from talent deficiencies on the back end.”