The San Francisco 49ers (2-2) offensive line hasn’t been the same without T Anthony Davis anchoring the right side and it’s showing. A team that needs to pound the rock, the 49ers took another blow as Davis fell victim to another injury as QB Colin Kaepernick rolled up on his left knee after taking a sack in last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles (3-1). Now, as the 49ers face arguably the best 1-2 pass rushing threat at the outside linebacker position in Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) OLB Tamba Hali and OLB Justin Houston, the question remains how will those two fare as they face a very shaky offensive line.
According to Pro Football Focus, both Hali and Houston rank among the top 10 pass-rushers in the NFL as Houston ranks No. 7 while Hali comes in at No. 8. And while the two combined for eight sacks and 15 quarterback hurries through the first four games, one has to wonder how the 49ers will hold up.
So far All-Pro T Joe Staley has struggled evident by being ranked as the 15th worst tackle in regards to pass blocking. Not a good sign considering the 49ers may also be without RT Anthony Davis, they will need to find answers as they keep the Chiefs pass-rushers at bay.
One way to ensure QB Colin Kaepernick is protected may be to max-protect. An ideology that may be useful considering Kaepernick has not had the time to find open receivers or use his proper check-downs, max protect may be a useful strategy. In max protect, usually the running back and/or tight-end will stay back in pass-block allowing the quarterback more time in the pocket, if this comes to fruition, look for TE Vernon Davis to then “leak” out for some short out-routes or post-routes after blocking his man. The 49ers love to disguise Davis’ receiving game and this may be a good way to do it.
And if that doesn’t work, look for Kaepernick to make the Chiefs pass-rush pay the price as he runs for big gains. One of the best ways to counter a lethal pass-rush is to have your quarterback run if the pass-rushers get up field too quickly. Pass-rushers that typically pin their ears back can be exposed with a mobile quarterback and Kaepernick may be the answer. If Houston or Hali get up-field while losing the battle of setting the edge, Kap should find some running lanes as that whole side of the field should be open.
With the 49ers trying to game-plan for a very potent pass-rush, they will need to do a better job in pass-protection as the Chiefs outside linebackers will surely bring the heat.