Members of the 49ers Reveal Who Their ‘Silent Assassin’ Is


Getty The 49ers deliver the stop on fourth and goal on December 24, 2022 against Washington.

On a team glutted with superstars on defense, it was a “silent assassin” who came through in crucial moments for the San Francisco 49ers on Christmas Eve.

Jordan Willis isn’t considered a household name in the league, let alone on the league’s best defense. He wasn’t even listed a starter at the start of the 2022 campaign. And he’s not known to be a talker compared to captains Jimmie Ward and Fred Warner.

But he proved to be action first, words last in the 37-20 romp of the Washington Commanders by providing three tackles, one stop for a loss and being the recipient of this loose ball:

His head coach Kyle Shanahan saw Willis involved in a bunch of critical defensive moments — which additionally included snuffing out a designed quarterback run by Taylor Heinicke for a loss of four yards. He even had an 11-yard sack called back due to a defensive holding call. Shanahan himself acknowledges that Willis plays with a quiet killer instinct.

“Jordan…you’re not going to hear him talk very much. [But] he’s our silent assassin,” Shanahan told reporters following the win.

Willis Develops Habit of Making Late Season Push

Since coming on board to the 49ers in 2020, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder has created a habit of flipping a switch late in the season — which comes at a pivotal time when the Niners make their postseason push.

Last season, he managed to deliver three sacks with all of them coming in the month of December. He also went from producing four tackles between September to November, to tallying 11 from December 5, 2021 to January 9, 2022.

But his biggest play was a non-defensive play. It was on special teams with a trip to the NFC title game on the line:

“You guys saw how he stepped up for us last year. He has his games,” Shanahan said. “I messed with him earlier but December usually is his time of year. December and January.”

49ers Captain Agrees With ‘Silent Assassin’ Moniker for Willis

Shanahan isn’t the only one agreeing with Willis’ field nickname.

Warner has seen first hand the quiet but workmanlike side of the 27-year-old Willis. The 49ers captain additionally saw how Willis showed a knack for being at the right place at the right time on the Nick Bosa sack and strip that saw Willis fight for possession of the ball.

“I was dropping back, [into the] middle third and I’m way back there. I’m kind of watching the backfield and you can feel the rush. As soon as I saw him let it go and the ball came loose, the first thing I see is Jordan Willis is trying to fight for it,” Warner recalled with reporters. “You know, I didn’t know if it was a fumble or if it was considered an interception. So I’m trying to make sure Jordan secured it. But you mentioned it being a big time play by a big time player in a moment we needed it.”

Warner, who also calls his teammate “Jay Will,” also agrees that the 49ers have their “silent assassin.”

“Jay Will, that’s my guy. I love him. I love that guy because I mean…that’s true. He is the silent assassin,” Warner said. “The way he works and the way that he plays on game day, it’s fun to watch when you go back and look at the tape. I mean, he’s such a dynamic player and such a relentless force in the run game and pass game. Always making plays somehow when he’s on the field. I’m glad he’s on our side.”

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