Projected 49ers Defensive Impact in 2018
With Robert Saleh returning for his second year — the first time a defensive coordinator has returned to the 49ers in back-to-back years since 2013 and 2014 (Vic Fangio) — San Francisco’s defense should be able to take advantage of the continuity.
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That’s good. So is the returning star power of DeForest Buckner and Reuben Foster. And if the 49ers manage merely good play from Richard Sherman, one can see how this side of the ball makes some serious strides in 2018.
A lack of a true pass rush is going to hurt, though. In football, the two most important positions today are a quality quarterback and an elite outside pass-rusher. The Niners lack the latter, which could hinder the rest of the defense in a multitude of ways.
On a good note, the 49ers got by without an effective pass rush last season. According to Football Outsiders‘ DVOA metric, San Francisco ranked 26th in the league in 2017.
That’s not good. But with some added talent, maturation and a more productive offense, one should expect this number to improve significantly this season.
In all likelihood, the 49ers aren’t going to emerge as an elite-level defensive team in 2018. At best, they’ll wind up in the middle of the pack somewhere, probably on the lower end of the pass rush but enough playmaking ability at all three levels to cut down on the worry somewhat.
That might be solid enough to propel an upstart squad towards a serious playoff run.
And with many postseason squads often getting by with merely “OK” defenses, it wouldn’t be a shock to see that play out in Santa Clara this season.