With the announcement that San Francisco 49ers (1-2) OLB Aldon Smith would be suspended for the first nine games of the 2014 season, many Forever Faithful were bummed but not pessimistic. They experienced Smith’s absence last season as others like OLB Corey Lemonier and OLB Dan Skuta would fill in nicely in his five-game absence while Smith returned to form in his return. However, this is a different season and with no pass-rush to speak of outside of All-Pro DE Justin Smith, all while ILB NaVorro Bowman continues to recover from a torn MCL and ACL injuries, they will surely need to find answers quick.
Through 3 games, the 49ers have a total of 4 sacks, 3 of them by DE Justin Smith. Where’s the pass rush?
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 23, 2014
Through three games, the 49ers pass rush has been non-existent. Sure, Cowboy has 3.0 sacks to his name but other than that it’s been a disaster, as the only other player to record a sack this season is fellow All-Pro OLB Ahmad Brooks. Not to mention, the 49ers failed to get pressure on Arizona Cardinals QB Drew Stanton as they only pressured him twice on 28 drop-backs when rushing four or less, the 49ers will need to do a better job creating pressure up front.
Sounds like DE Tank Carradine needs to start playing instead of being inactive. Every week, I make it a point to write an article on the 49ers second-round pick (No. 40) from a season ago. A beast of a man, Carradine is the best pass-rusher along the defensive line outside of Cowboy. To think that DL Tony Jerod-Eddie, DE Ray McDonald, or DE Demarcus Dobbs can get the job done is ridiculous as the numbers don’t lie.
According to Pro Football Focus, McDonald is currently rated the worst on the team at pressuring the quarterback with a -1.1 grade. While Dobbs and Jerod-Eddie are negatively graded -0.9 and -0.3 respectively. So why not give Carradine a shot? It can’t be any worse than the production those other defensive ends are producing. Sure Dobbs and Jerod-Eddie provide a special-teams presence which allows them to fill active spots, but to think they are more important than Carradine blows my mind.
Let’s be honest, Carradine proved his worth during the preseason as a pass-rush specialist. His violent hands combined with rare strength were highly evident and something the 49ers can use right about now, especially when the Eagles come to town. If the 49ers are unable to rattle Eagles QB Nick Foles he will pick them apart like a game of Madden on rookie mode. Pressure, pressure, pressure! If Carradine plays, I fully expect him to record his first NFL sack as he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl player year in and year out.
Heck, if not Carradine then at least use behemoth defensive lineman DL Quinton Dial. Dial is stout against the run and should play more snaps as the season goes on. He understands gap integrity while being able to shed blockers on his way to the ball carrier, something you rarely see from a young defensive lineman. His long arms allow him to see the plays and then make the tackle. A true mauler in the run game, I believe Dial should also be used more frequently.
From the outside linebacker spot, it’s rookie fifth-round pick (No. 150) OLB Aaron Lynch who continues to catch my eye. Through three games and 49 snaps, Lynch has the second best pass-rushing grade on the team with a 1.3 grade according to Pro Football Focus. Another player with an elongated wingspan, Lynch will definitely need to create pressure up front as he goes up against Eagles RT Andrew Gardner who has the second worst pass-blocking grade in the NFL with a -6.2. Yikes! Lynch should have a field day on Sunday, as I predict him to rack up at least two sacks, while creating a strip/sack in the process.
With the 49ers getting ready for the Eagles high-octane offense, they will need to make sure to get pressure on Foles. Whether sending zone blitzes or cornerbacks, the 49ers need to rattle Foles early and often while setting the tone.