49ers: Struggling to generate pass rush
One of the foundations behind the success of the 49ers’ defense the last several years has been their ability to consistently get pressure on the quarterback by rushing just four defenders. This has allowed them to drop back seven in coverage, creating an advantage for the defense.
During defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s tenure, the 49ers have been at or near the bottom of the list for blitz frequency. In 2013, the 49ers blitzed on only 19.4% of pass plays, well under the league average of 28.9%.
Outside of Justin Smith (who has three of the team’s four sacks, and eight of their 20 pressures) the first two weeks of 2014 has seen San Francisco struggle getting to the quarterback.
The 49ers are getting little to no rush out of their outside linebacker corps. Corey Lemonier has rushed the passer 50 times this season, and has yet to record a single pressure. On the other side, Ahmad Brooks has only one sack and one hurry to show for his 50 pass rushes. Brooks and Lemonier have each earned a -5.7 overall grade through two weeks, and are currently tied at the bottom of our 3-4 OLB rankings.
Aside from the current group getting out of their slump, how can the 49ers start getting more heat on the quarterback?
San Francisco blitzed Jay Cutler Sunday night only once in 37 drop-backs. Fangio may have to send guys like Patrick Willis, Michael Wilhoite, or even Jimmie Ward with more frequency. Rookie OLB Aaron Lynch has had 37 snaps in the first two games, and he might be in line for more time.
Another option is defensive end Tank Carradine, who excelled with a +3.3 grade rushing the passer in the preseason. Carradine was active last week, but has yet to play a snap on defense in the regular season.