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



49ers-Jaguars: Kyle Shanahan 'holding out hope' that Elijah Mitchell could play, discusses Jeff Wilson, Trey Sermon

By David Bonilla
Nov 19

San Francisco 49ers rookie running back Elijah Mitchell is officially listed as "doubtful" for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is still hoping that the rookie could play, but the odds are against him. Mitchell suffered a finger fracture during Monday night's win over the Los Angeles Rams. The next day, he underwent a procedure to repair the damage. As a result, Mitchell has not practiced at all this week. The coach had hoped the team's leading rusher would get some work in during the three practices, but that never happened. "It's just how he feels with it," Shanahan explained. "And we thought it would be a little further along now. But obviously, it isn't. That's why he couldn't go today. We're holding out hope because



Confident 49ers RB Jeff Wilson Jr. could start vs. Jaguars, discusses return from 'freak accident'

By David Bonilla
Nov 19

Jeff Wilson Jr. looks on track to start his first game since last season. Now a veteran in the running back room, Wilson is ready for whatever the San Francisco 49ers demand of him against the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend. "Whatever they ask [of] me," Wilson said after Friday's practice. "That's been the thing since Day 1. So whatever you're called upon, that's what you're called upon to do. So, if that was the case, that's what I'll do. If it was for me to get only a couple of carries, be a blocker, then that's what I'll do. Whatever the task is, that's what I'll do." The 49ers figured on Wilson being a key contributor in the team's rushing attack this season. However, the running back underwent surgery in May to repair a torn meniscus. The injury didn't



49ers-Vikings Injury Report: Elijah Mitchell returns to practice, reinforcements could be on the way

By David Bonilla
Nov 24

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing for their Week 12 contest against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. A look at new 49ers practice squad WR Devin Funchess, No. 14. (He missed his first target in an SF uniform, though the throw seemed a tad off) pic.twitter.com/iCf0TaZYrg— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) November 24,



49ers-Seahawks: JaMycal Hasty and Maurice Hurst could return

By David Bonilla
3 hrs

Sunday could feature the return of two key San Francisco 49ers role players—running back JaMycal Hasty and defensive lineman Maurice Hurst. Hasty has been dealing with the ankle injury he suffered during Week 9's game against the Arizona Cardinals. Hurst sustained a calf injury during an October practice. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said both players will be limited in Wednesday's practice but could play on Sunday. The coach added that several players would not practice. They are wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin), linebacker Fred Warner (hamstring), running back Trey Sermon (ankle), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (groin), and linebacker Marcell Harris (concussion protocol).


Featured

More by Nicholas McGee

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone