(Click here if you are unable to view this photo gallery on your mobile device)

Reuben Foster’s first three full games of his career resulted in his first award: the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month. But what exactly earned him that award? It apparently goes beyond wins and losses, as well as stats.

“I’m happy where I’m at right now,” Foster said. “Everything is going exactly as I want it. There’s still ups and downs. But how long are you going to let that down, negative energy hold you back?”

In his three November games, Foster had no forced fumbles, no fumble recoveries, no interceptions, no pass defenses and no sacks — the kind of stuff you’d expect to spur a player-of-the-month award, especially on a team that went 1-2 that month.

Nothing against Foster — a delightful personality and tremendous linebacker — but was it a slow month for the league’s other defensive rookies? That certainly was the case for the 49ers’ other rookie defender they drafted in the first round: Solomon Thomas, who missed two games because of a knee injury and had two tackles in his return Sunday in a 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

All that said, Foster’s 10 tackles against the New York Giants did help end the 49ers’ worst start (0-9) in franchise history. And his 14 tackles in his first full game were an impressive total, albeit in a 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals the previous game.

Switching to weak-side linebacker, he amassed 30 tackles through his three November games — the 49ers’ bye preceded last Sunday’s loss Seahawks, in which Foster had six tackles.

No plaque comes with the rookie-of-the-month honor, but that won’t stop Foster from commemorating it.

“I can screenshot it, print it out and put it on my wall,” Foster said. “I saw it on Instagram.”

In a story announcing Foster’s award, the 49ers’ website noted: “According to Gamebook Statistics, Foster’s 25 solo tackles in the month of November led all NFL rookies despite the 49ers taking their bye in Week 11. In addition, Foster’s 13.3 percent run stop percentage in November ranked second among all linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus.”

Ankle and rib injuries kept Foster inactive six of the first eight games, and they forced him out of the two games he played.

“When we drafted him, I thought if he could stay healthy, he’d be the rookie of the year, no question,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “The defense is built for linebackers to run and hit. For him to gobble them up the way he has, it’s not a surprise. He’s a very talented, instinctual player. He hasn’t even scratched the surface.”

Added Foster: “I want it all. I’m hungry. I’m greedy. At the end of the day, anything is a blessing. If I’d gotten first quarter of the defense, I’d take it. I’m happy with whatever they give me.”

— Quarterback C.J. Beathard looks on track to back up Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday. Beathard (knee, hip) practiced Thursday in limited action after only watching Wednesday’s session. Practice-squad quarterback Nick Mullens “diced us up” Wednesday as the scout-team quarterback, Saleh said.

— Right tackle Trent Brown (shoulder) and safety Adrian Colbert (thumb) were limited and could be in line to return from their one-game hiatus.

— Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle) did not practice and worked on a side field after stretching with the team. His injury did not appear serious, but if he’s unable to make his fifth straight start, the 49ers could go with K’Wuan Williams, Leon Hall or Greg Mabin.

— Defensive end Aaron Lynch might end his five-game hiatus, as Saleh spoke highly of Lynch’s effort in practice Wednesday. A calf injury has hindered Lynch, although he was a healthy scratch Sunday.

— Why does Saleh occasionally drop a defensive lineman into pass coverage? He said the objective is to fill a void in the middle of their three-deep scheme. Saleh claimed that move has produced two interceptions, pass breakups and third-down stops, but is a “high risk, high reward” move. “When it doesn’t work, it looks terrible,” said Saleh, noting a mismatch Ronald Blair had against Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham on Sunday.


blog comments powered by Disqus