SANTA CLARA — Don’t read too much into Nick Bosa’s sack parade slowing to just one in his past six games. The 49ers rookie defensive end is primed for his first playoff run, and on Friday he thanked the gauntlet of top-level left tackles for getting him ready.
“I learned a lot about playing the best of the best, and now what I know the best of the best is, I can start working toward that,” Bosa said.
At last check, Bosa was receiving the most Pro Bowl votes of any NFL defender, and we’ll find out Tuesday if the 49ers rookie defensive end draws his first all-star invitation.
Want to know which offensive tackles got his vote? Bosa revealed his ballot: David Bakhtiari (Green Bay Packers), Terron Armstead (New Orleans Saints), Andrew Whitworth (Los Angeles Rams) and Duane Brown (Seattle Sehawks).
Had he been allowed to vote on AFC offensive tackles, Bosa would have acknowledged Baltimore’s Ronnie Stanley. Last Sunday’s 48-46 win at New Orleans may not have been an overall defensive success but it was a valuable learning tool.
“I actually thought I learned a lot from playing against (Armstead),” Bosa said. “We were having hand battles the whole game, and I think it’s really cool when a tackle is a technician.”
Bosa did not record a sack for the fifth time in six games, and although his season total idles at eight sacks, he made key plays last game, such as a third-down tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
“He was unbelievable last game, not all over the stat sheet by any means, but when you’re as good of a player as he is and what he’s put on tape, people are going to make it a very strong point to not allow you to get on the stat sheet,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s learning through that.”
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said he’s never seen a rookie draw so much attention with extra blockers, and Shanahan noted that Bosa “has earned it” and is improving at such double teams.
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Bosa overcame an early-game knee “scare” and finished playing a season-high 68 snaps (94 percent). The toll? His body “feels really good” 13 games into the best rookie season anyone is having in the NFL.
“Now that I don’t have school to worry about, it’s pretty much about keeping my body right all year. I’m feeling really good,” Bosa said.
He credited his weight-lifting routine for part of that, as well as hydrotherapy, adding: “I do a lot of pool stuff, that’s one of my favorite things to do. I come in in the morning and ju move around in the pool and that wakes up all my muscles.”