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Quality Over Quantity Should Benefit DeForest Buckner in 2017
June 22, 2017 10:00 PM | Keiana Martin

Defensive lineman DeForest Bucker played a league-high 1,006 snaps last season. That's an outrageous number even before considering he missed one game with a foot injury. According to Pro Football Focus, only three other NFL linemen topped 900 snaps last season.

"There were times out there last year where I was dead tired and they wouldn't take me out," Buckner said. "I feel like I'm hurting the team staying out there and not being able to live up to my full potential when I'm out there."

San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina hopes to remedy that problem in 2017. Zgonina joined the 49ers staff this offseason after spending last season with the New York Giants. He played a role in New York's success defensively in 2016. The Giants ranked second in points allowed per game (17.8) and tied for third in opponent rushing yards per game (88.6). Zgonina's philosophy is to reduce the workload of his defensive linemen to maximize production.

"I'm a rotation guy," Zgonina said. "I'm allowed to rotate guys as much as I want, and I will do that. I told those guys, if you give me four-to-five plays full-tilt, I'm going to rotate you. I believe in fresh bodies all the time. I don't like to see a guy play more than 1,000 snaps in a season like (Buckner) did last season. Especially with a rookie - that's a lot of snaps."

That's music to Buckner's ears.

Last November against the Arizona Cardinals, Buckner was running out of gas and tapped his helmet to ask for a sub. He quickly realized that reinforcements weren't coming.

"I tapped (my helmet) once. Nobody came in for me," Buckner said. "So, I never did it again."

In 2016, Buckner posted 73 tackles, six sacks and two fumble recoveries in 2016. He also played over 90 percent of snaps in 11 of his 15 games.

Rotation wasn't a luxury afforded to the 49ers last season as the team was plagued by injuries along the defensive front. The offseason additions of Earl Mitchell and Solomon Thomas should benefit the 49ers defensive line in 2017.

"I feel like getting the rotation is definitely going to be a good idea for the D-line," Buckner added. "If I'm going hard and the coach pulls me out for a play or two to catch my breath and get back out there so I can be more efficient, I'll definitely take that."

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