‘Unreal’ 49ers Defender Compared to 8-Time Pro Bowler: Ex-NFL Lineman


Getty 49er defenders celebrate a turnover on September 11, 2022.

There were bright spots recognized through the rain in Chicago on the San Francisco 49ers‘ side.

Popular NFL analyst and ex-offensive lineman Brian Baldinger was able to look past the monsoon plus disappointing 19-10 road loss to the Bears and discovered what he called an “unreal” 49ers talent — and drew comparisons to an eight-time Pro Bowler during his interview with “The Morning Roast” with Bonta and Shasky on Tuesday, September 13.

‘Unreal’ Talent

Talanoa Hufanga showed a tremendous growth spurt in his first game of his second NFL campaign.

The long-haired safety out of USC, who got his feet wet in the defensive backfield last season due to some key injuries, ended up producing a career-high 11 tackles including dropping two ball carries behind the line of scrimmage. He also swatted a pass and snatched this away from Bears quarterback Justin Fields:

That pick came in what is considered a zone robber look:

Now, it’s time to add the NFL Network analyst and offensive lineman for 12 seasons Baldinger as a fan of Hufanga’s game.

“Hufanga was unreal,” Baldinger said.

But then he followed with this telling comparison to a perennial Pro Bowler, former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, two-time Super Bowl champion and lastly, Hall of Famer.

“The plays that that guy makes, he kind of reminds you a little bit — I don’t want to make any comparisons to Hall of Famers — he reminds you of Troy Polamalu, the way he plays,” Baldinger said.

“Baldy” then described how instinctive Hufanga was at Soldier Field…which parallels in comparison to the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler.

“He’s in the backfield. He’s aggressive. He gets underneath the offensive linemen. He sticks his head in everywhere. He’s going to be a really good player,” Baldinger said.

Hufanga Earned High Grade Elsewhere

Baldinger wasn’t the only one buzzing about Hufanga. Pro Football Focus gave him high grades all around.

The national analytics site handed the 6-foot, 200-pound safety the highest PFF grade among 49ers defenders — scoring 90.8 overall.

Hufanga was in on 58 total defensive snaps, which was broken off to 34 on running plays, 23 in pass coverage and one on a quarterback pressure from a blitz. On the aerial side, Fields only tested Hufanga three times…and the safety surrendered just one grab for three yards.

If there was any flaw a fan or analyst tried to bring up, it was on this Equanimeous St. Brown touchdown during the fourth quarter where Hufanga was the nearest safety, plus the 49ers played a one-safety high look:

Baldinger, though, re-watched that sequence and believed Hufanga wasn’t at fault for allowing that score to happen.

“Hufanga was really frozen on the touchdown to Equanimeous St. Brown because he had to be,” Baldinger said. “There were two other receivers in the middle of the field. He’s the free safety. But I give Justin Fields credit. He looked him off, kind of held him, and then when he threw the ball over the top, there was a little bit of a breakdown there.”

Overall, Baldinger isn’t just convinced about Hufanga’s trajectory, but this 49ers defense in general.

“I’m just watching this defense going, ‘They are so freaking good,'” Baldinger noted.

Read More