Sakamoto: Saleh plays ‘devils advocate’ when it comes to Reuben Foster

Foster Hype is REAL… 

San Francisco 49ers first-round pick (No. 31) LB Reuben Foster is the real deal. I had a feeling he would be. I immediately knocked out two bold tweets moments after Foster’s selection. 

10 minutes later the phone rings. On the other end was an uberly excited Foster. Beat writers rushed to the forefront of the media work room. What’s going through Foster’s head? A top 10 talent in my book falling to the tail end of the first round. Unbelievable. 

I asked Foster straight up.

My Question:

Do you have kind of a chip on your shoulder knowing that you fell so far being the top-10 talent?

“Man, it’s like I always said man, turn a negative into a positive. I’ve got to prove, just prove my fact. I’ve got to just prove my passion for the sport. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, true yeah. I’ve got things to prove, big things to prove,” Foster told me. 

My follow up question was the last one he would answer. Playing violently and with little regard for himself, I asked Foster to describe his game in one word. 

My Question:

If you had to describe your game in one word, what would it be? Because you’re a pretty violent hitter and when you hit that open field, you have no fear whatsoever. How would describe your game in one word if someone’s asking?

“Savage,” Foster told me. 

Welcome 5AVA6E!!!

Fast forward to today and the enigmatic yet electrifying Alabama product is playing lights out! The hype is real. The hits are vicious. The potential is limitless. 

But what about the “other first-round pick (No. 3)” DE Solomon Thomas. No offense to Thomas but I saw this coming from a mile away as I tweeted out the following.

What makes Foster so special?

Strength. Instincts. Explosiveness. You can read my story on that here. However, aside from the aforementioned triple skill set, none has been more apparent than instincts. 49ers DC Robert Saleh praised Foster’s ability to run-and-hit. You can’t do that unless you have elite instincts

Devil’s Advocate

In a game of devil’s advocate, Saleh openly admitted that Foster’s elite instincts overshadowed his lack of fundamentals. A good analogy would be a Run-N-Gun basketball team. “You live by the three, you die by the three.” It’s a double-edged sword. 

Coach Saleh: “There’s still a lot more he [Foster] can learn. There’s still a lot of detail that he needs to master, especially fundamentally.” 

So what are those fundamentals? Don’t worry, I got you covered.

Before the Vikings game, I was asked to go on 95.7 The GAME for my breakdown on Foster and that day’s predictions. You can listen to my featured podcast here as I talk with Guru and Urban.

Fundamentals for Linebacker


A linebacker must establish a strong stance from head-to-toe. Your body is a kinetic chain so one little mishap can throw off your entire alignment pre-snap. 

  • Feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Weight distributed on balls of feet NOT heels (for lateral agility and explosiveness)
  • Toes pointed toward the line of scrimmage
  • Back straight/head up


  • Must lead with the same side foot as his shoulder. 
  • Weight heavily distributed over lead foot upon contact from blocker 
  • Low pad-level means being a knee bender not waist bender. Lowest man always wins!
  • Maintain proper leverage by keeping hips down in order to pop-up blocker with leg power NOT upper body

VIDEO: Watch my twitter video above of LB NaVorro Bowman

Man v. Zone Coverage:

  • Must keep shoulders square to LOS (Line of Scrimmage)
  • Must maintain eye contact with QB 
  • Must maintain zone integrity whether it’s drop-spot zone or match zone coverage

Saleh’s first smoke-screen?

After re-watching the Minnesota Vikings game, Foster was as fundamentally sound of any Niners linebacker on the field. He attacked his run-fits perfectly. He had a smooth cadence in his backpedal when dropping back in zone coverage. Everything to a tee was perfect. So what was Saleh talking about? Was this all just a smoke-screen to ensure the early success doesn’t get to his young linebacker’s head? I think so. 

There are always things a player can improve on, but for now Foster is doing just fine, as I see no glaring weakness in his game. 

[Top 5 Foster Articles]

Sakamoto: How high can 49ers Reuben Foster fly in rookie season?

VIDEO: 49ers MLB Reuben Foster blows up Leonard Fournette, LSU Running Back’s reaction? Priceless!

VIDEO: 49ers’ Jed York anticipated Ravens drafting Reuben Foster

VIDEO: 49ers Reuben Foster delivers violent blows! Kills ball-carriers!



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Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.