Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

PFF ranks 49ers’ edge defenders as the best in the NFL

Jun 10, 2020 at 12:22 PM--

Pro Football Focus has been cycling through the best NFL duos at various positions. The offensive tackle duo of Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey just missed its top-five ranking for the group. Richard Sherman and K'Waun Williams were named as the highest-graded cornerback duo in the league.

The 49ers claimed another top spot — the best edge defender duo in the NFL. San Francisco's ranking, though, actually includes three players, which makes it the only team in the top five list with that consideration. Those players are Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Arik Armstead.

Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus admits to cheating a bit with the 49ers' ranking at No. 1 but notes that San Francisco's trio of edge rushers is just too good not to include all three players.

Bosa, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year from this past season, was even better than advertised in his first NFL campaign.

"Edge defenders aren't supposed to step into the NFL and perform at an elite level in their first season," wrote Linsey, "but nobody told Bosa that — his 80 regular-season pressures were more than any rookie since the PFF era began in 2006 and were good enough to rank sixth among all defenders last season, tied with the human outlier Aaron Donald. Bosa's 17.2% pressure rate was fourth among all players with 250 or more pass-rushing snaps on the season, as well."

Then you have a dangerous combination of Ford and Armstead across from Bosa. Despite some injury issues that plagued him throughout the 2019 season, Ford was still an impact player when he was on the football field.

"Even in a limited capacity, he still put up an 81.7 pass-rushing grade during the regular season with 25 pressures on just 163 pass-rushing snaps," explained Linsey. "If a healthy knee means a season reminiscent of Ford's 2018 campaign with the Kansas City Chiefs (78 total pressures and a pass-rush grade of 91.1), then a great 49ers pass rush becomes even better."

The 49ers signed Armstead to a massive five-year deal this offseason, ensuring that the former first-round pick remains with the team for the foreseeable future. His 89.6 overall grade tied for the fifth-best among 102 qualifying edge defenders.

"He put forth a monstrous effort against the run and the best effort of his career as a pass-rusher," writes Linsey, "particularly down the stretch, where his 42 pressures from Week 10 through 17 ranked third among all NFL defenders over that period."

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