No. 3: Defense Relies on the Blitz More
Dee Ford has been one of the most prolific pass-rushers in the league since entering the NFL in 2014. His quick first step has allowed him to pressure quarterbacks at an elite rate.
Coming into the month of November, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s group had only called 35 blitzes (fewest in the NFL), which was the second lowest blitz rate at 14.8 percent:
The need to send extra pressure in addition to a four-man rush was obsolete up until the point in the season after Ford’s injury, as the 49ers’ upgraded 2019 pass rush was able to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks with just four down linemen.
But the injury to Ford, as well as key reserve defensive end Ronald Blair, will limit the pass rush to an extent.
Cornerback K’Waun Williams has been effective when blitzing from the slot, and he may be called upon more frequently during Ford’s absence to keep pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In the Monday night thriller versus the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago, Williams blitzed quarterback Russell Wilson from the slot and jarred the ball lose, which would eventually be scooped up by defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and returned for a touchdown. Middle linebacker Fred Warner racked up two sacks on Wilson in the same game.
Sending extra pressure while maintaining sound coverage in the secondary can help make up for the loss of Ford off the edge.