When the San Francisco 49ers visit the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, a four-man pass rush will be key in limiting quarterback Andy Dalton and forcing some key mistakes.
The San Francisco 49ers should rely heavily on a four-man pass rush when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.
Granted, few quarterbacks like feeling pressure. And in an era when signal-callers are focusing more on getting the ball out quickly, the pass rush needs to be both dominant and confusing to throw quarterbacks off their game.
Especially the Bengals’ Andy Dalton.
Dalton hasn’t been the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was a number of years ago, of course. But under first-year head coach Zac Taylor, Dalton was responsible for tossing a league-high 35 completions for another league-high 418 yards in Week 1 against a tough Seattle Seahawks defense at CenturyLink Field — a venue where opposing quarterbacks never have much success.
It will have to be on point again against Dalton in Week 2.
Not the blitz, though. No, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will have to rely heavily on a four-man pass rush. Why? Well, Dalton has a good recent history against the blitz. According to Pro Football Focus, Dalton had passer ratings of 101.6 and 110.7 when blitzed in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
But by looking at Dalton’s 2018 passing chart, courtesy of NFL’s NextGen Stats, it’s understandable why cutting down the time he has to throw can be crucial:
When pressured last year, Dalton’s passer rating fell to 70.1, per PFF, compared to 96.8 without pressure. 2017’s numbers weren’t totally different.
Let’s put the numbers and analysis together, bringing in another X-factor the 49ers have to face: wide receiver John Ross.
Based on the above chart, Dalton has the ability to take advantage of deep routes — an area in which Ross, who ran a speedy 4.22 40-yard time at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, can exploit. If he’s able to create separation down the field against Niners cornerbacks Richard Sherman or Ahkello Witherspoon, one can see how a lack of pressure could be problematic for San Francisco’s defense.
Ross had 158 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle last week, by the way.
Keeping Dalton from having time to toss way down the field is an essential part of the 49ers’ to-do list in Week 2.
Dalton still was sacked five times against the Seahawks, though, so this will have to be a regular thing for the Niners defense. One question the 49ers face is just how healthy rookie EDGE Nick Bosa, who was PFF’s second-highest graded Niners defender last week, will be for this contest while dealing with an ankle injury.
General manager John Lynch told 95.7 The Game (h/t 49ers Webzone) Bosa is expected to play in Cincinnati, and the Niners will need him and the other crop of pass-rushers to do their job in Week 2.
Especially if they want to keep the Dalton and Ross connection from developing further this season.
The 49ers and Bengals kick off on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. ET from Raymond James Stadium.