Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Reuben Foster could be solution to 49ers pass rush woes

Oct 6, 2018 at 12:02 PM


Four games into another season with a stacked defensive line and there is again concern surrounding a lack of pass rush from the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers, having recorded just 30 sacks in 2017, have been able to register a meager eight through the first quarter of the season, with 3.5 of those coming from DeForest Buckner. Only five teams in the league have fewer, and the disappointing pass-rushing performance from the defensive front has led to scrutiny over the Niners' decision to trim their options at the edge rusher position, a spot where they were already lacking in talent.

Having released the now-retired Elvis Dumervil and let go of free agency signing Jeremiah Attaochu, while also deciding to stash Pita Taumoepenu on the practice squad, San Francisco's options off the edge are thin.

Cassius Marsh and Ronald Blair have seen the majority of snaps off the edge on passing downs but have just a half sack between them, though Marsh did have one negated by a facemask against the Detroit Lions in Week 2.

There does not appear to be an edge rushing savior coming for the 49ers, who for their part do not appear to be overly interested in finding one at this point. Yet a formula for an improved pass rush may have been discovered against the Los Angeles Chargers, a game in which San Francisco had just one sack of Philip Rivers, as the Niners enjoyed early success pressuring Rivers with blitzes involving inside linebacker Reuben Foster.

Foster was sent twice on blitzes on the Chargers second drive. On the first he was completely unblocked on a five-man rush, forcing Rivers to hurry his incomplete throw. The second saw him force a three-and-out on a zone blitz. Marsh occupied a tackle, leaving the left guard in two minds as to whether to block Foster or Buckner. With the center opting to help the the right guard double-team Fred Warner, Foster was able to use his quickness to slip through a small gap and again hurry Rivers.


In the 49ers' most recent era of success under Jim Harbaugh, the defense flourished in part because it had two of the NFL's best pass-rushing inside linebackers in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, who combined for eight sacks in their final full season together in 2013. Foster, with his downhill closing speed and willingness to attack blockers, has the potential to make a similar impact.

Of course Foster cannot be used as a pass rusher on every snap -- his skills in coverage and as a run defender are too valuable -- and the zone blitzes on which Foster is often asked to pressure the quarterback carry inherent risks, with defensive linemen tasked with dropping into coverage. The 49ers learned that the hard way against the Chargers as Solomon Thomas was left having to deal with a complete mismatch covering Antonio Gates. However, when zone blitzes are correctly called and properly executed, they can be an excellent avenue to generating pressure.

Foster does not always have to be the one rushing the passer on interior blitzes. Safety Jaquiski Tartt boasts similar downhill closing speed and Antone Exum also flashed as someone capable of knifing into the backfield against the Chargers.

At this point, though, it appears clear that the 49ers' best hopes of capitalizing on the attention Buckner, Armstead and Thomas can draw is by looking to the talent they have in the middle of the field, rather than the limited talent they possess on the edge.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



Watch: 49ers WR Jauan Jennings hauls in tipped pass for TD vs. Saints

By David Bonilla
Nov 27

Kudos to San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings for staying with the football and hauling in a tipped pass against the New Orleans Saints. Safety Tyrann Mathieu got his hands on the Jimmy Garoppolo-thrown pass in the end zone, trying to break up the play, but the 49ers' third-year wideout kept his eyes on the ball and came down with it in the end zone. The impressive catch gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead heading into halftime at Levi's Stadium. San Francisco seeks to earn its fourth consecutive win and improve to 7-4 on the season. Jennings had five catches for 43 yards and the score on six targets in the first half. You can watch Jennings' touchdown catch



Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins wishes he could box 49ers' Charvarius Ward

By David Bonilla
Nov 26

There's a player-player rivalry brewing in the NFC West. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is ready for a bout with San Francisco 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward, and he's not talking about the Week 18 rematch between the two teams in January. Following this past Monday night's win over the Cardinals in Mexico City, Ward criticized Hopkins following the 49ers' 38-10 victory. "He was getting locked up. He was doing some dirty things," Ward said. "He tried to clip me, he grabbed me by the throat. He grabbed my facemask on one play, so I don't respect his game. That's steroid boy." That last part is a jab regarding



Jimmy Garoppolo: Familiarity could sway me to return to 49ers

By David Bonilla
Dec 2

It seems unlikely that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would opt to return to the San Francisco 49ers in 2023. Of course, no one predicted that he would be on the roster come Week 1 of this season, either. Even Garoppolo fully anticipated being elsewhere. There was some interest from other teams throughout training camp, but nothing came to fruition. That left Garoppolo and the 49ers kind of stuck with one another. So the two agreed to extend the marriage for one more season. San Francisco restructured Garoppolo's remaining year on his contract, allowing the quarterback to return as Trey Lance's backup. It worked out for both sides. Garoppolo is having a solid season, increasing his value for the upcoming offseason—an offseason in which the 49ers can't utilize



Tactical advantage could be out the window between 49ers' Kyle Shanahan and Dolphins' Mike McDaniel

By Rohan Chakravarthi
Dec 3

The San Francisco 49ers are set to host the Miami Dolphins in a reunion between head coach Kyle Shanahan and his protégé Mike McDaniel. Shanahan has known McDaniel for 17 years. The two started working together with the Houston Texans in 2006 and were together for all but two years until the Dolphins hired the former 49ers offensive coordinator in February to be their head coach. Is Sunday's game more interesting for Shanahan, knowing that he is going against his former assistant? "Not really because I think we know their offense very well," Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area. "The defense knows their offense very well. It's very similar to ours. They know our defense very well. That's all Mike's gone against, so there's no secrets


Featured

More by Nicholas McGee

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone