Bosa is back at rookie level, leading 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Bosa was pretty dominant as a rookie in 2019 when his pass rush skills helped the San Francisco 49ers make it to the Super Bowl.

Here’s some bad news for the rest of the NFL: Bosa feels he’s even better this season, a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery. He some numbers to back it up.

After earning his third multi-sack game of the season last week at Jacksonville, Bosa has already set a career high with 10 sacks, surpassing the nine he had in 2019 when he won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

“I think I’ve definitely improved a lot,” Bosa said. “I think I’m starting to get the hang of just how to really get sacks, get numbers. My rookie year I was just out there rushing, trying to win every time, and it worked well. But now I’m really getting the hang of how the sack leaders in the league do it. They go out there with a plan and know when their opportunities are going to come, and they’re ready for it.”

Bosa is once again one of those sack leaders, ranking fifth in the NFL in sacks (10), first in tackles for loss (15) and tied for third in quarterback hits (22). He’s one tackle for loss and three quarterback hits from matching his impressive rookie total.

Bosa’s bounce-back season has come after he tore the ACL in his knee in Week 2 last season, leaving a big void in San Francisco’s defense.

The Niners (5-5) already have 23 sacks through 10 gams this season, after getting only 30 all of last season.

“Bosa is a special player and he’s just as valuable this year as he was his rookie year,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He was the difference for us in 2019 and we missed him greatly last year. You guys can see why again this year. I think he’s getting better each week. I think he’s playing his best ball right now of the year.”

Bosa spent most of the offseason back home in Florida, rehabbing with his trainer and working out with his older brother, Joey, a star edge rusher for the Chargers.

He said he’s moving better than before the injury, but the biggest difference might be how he has handled all the double-teams he gets because of his ability. Instead of letting the propensity of double-teams frustrate him, Bosa has learned to be patient and take advantage of the opportunities he does get to go after the quarterback.

“He’s just gaining experience and the more experience he has, he’s being able to play smarter, understand how teams are trying to attack him and understanding how we need to counteract that so he can still be who he is, and be a dominant player who can affect the quarterback,” defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. “He’s learning, he’s gaining experience and he continues to get better each week. That’s the most impressive thing about him. He continues to get better.”

NOTES: RB Elijah Mitchell (rib, finger) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against Minnesota. Mitchell was doubtful last week and missed the game but has made progress this week. … RB JaMycal Hasty (ankle) is out Sunday and DL Maurice Hurst (calf) is doubtful. … DE Dee Ford (back) and LB Dre Greenlaw (groin) could be activated from IR on Saturday and play in the game.

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