2 New 49ers Predicted to Make Struggling Unit ‘Significantly Better’


Getty The 49ers celebrate getting a takeaway during their November 28, 2021 win over the Vikings at Levi's Stadium.

Minus a game-changing moment during the NFC playoffs on a cold and frigid night at Lambeau Field, the San Francisco 49ers special teams unit was considered a weak link last season.

So changes were needed to be made for the 49ers.

Now on board: A new special teams coach in Brian Schneider. But he’s not just the only one expected to change the fortunes of this struggling unit.

One analyst predicted on Wednesday, June 15 that two new additions to the 49ers will do this for the franchise — he believes the “special teams unit gets significantly better.”

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What Analyst Predicts

Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report delivered his “hot takes and predictions” on how some of the newest 49ers will impact the franchise in 2022.

Tansey predicts that two defensive additions will instantly bolster the third unit on the 49ers, the special teams group. Those additions are hard-hitting safety George Odum and linebacker Oren Burks.

“The 49ers opted for more practical signings than splashy ones in free agency, and those moves could pay off on special teams throughout the 2022 campaign,” Tansey said.

Beginning with the 2020 All-Pro Odum, Tansey calls for the 6-foot-1, 202-pounder to deliver his main impact on plays where he runs down the field and halts the return men.

“George Odum was one of the Indianapolis Colts’ best players on the third unit during his time in the AFC South. He made 150 tackles across the 65 games he played in for the Colts, but he only made 10 starts at safety. The 28-year-old could chip in with San Francisco’s defensive unit, but his main impact will be on returns,” Tansey wrote.

Back on March 18, Odum’s former special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone raved about the toughness and leadership the safety brought to Indy.

Along with delivering some sure tackles, Odum brings a high IQ on punts like this clip from 2020:

Former Packer Expected to be Impactful With Odum

Burks may not be anticipated to crack a starting rotation that already features Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair and Demtrius Flannigan-Fowles. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not expected to contribute.

“Linebacker Oren Burks falls into the same category as a player who has some decent career stats, has been durable but hasn’t made many starts,” Tansey stated. “The 27-year-old made 92 tackles across 59 games for the Green Bay Packers in the last four seasons but only seven defensive starts.

But Tansey notes “The additions of Odum and Burks to the special teams unit, and then as defensive depth pieces, should help the 49ers win the minimal battles throughout the 17-game schedule. A five-yard difference in starting position may make a big difference in certain games. Odum and Burks can help with that.”

Burks right away took on a special teams role the moment he entered the league in 2018:

Special Teams Now Dealing With Higher Expectations?

With these two defenders on board, plus Ray-Ray McCloud also joining in on the newly-revamped unit, are expectations higher than ever for this once-down unit?

Tansey believes McCloud will add needed versatility as a return ace himself, but also get inserted into Kyle Shanahan’s offense. As for the two newcomer defenders projected to chase down the ball and wreck returners, Tansey is a believer both will help change the fortunes of the special teams room.

“Odum and Burks may not pop out on the stat sheet, but if they perform the way they have at their previous stops, the 49ers will be a better all-around team,” Tansey said.

As it is, both skill defenders and the Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers wideout were high priorities all along for Schneider, which he revealed during the 49ers’ “State of the Franchise” event on Wednesday via The Athletic’s David Lombardi:

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