Why SF 49ers pass rush will feast vs. Sam Darnold, NY Jets

The San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers take on the New York Jets in Week 2, and here is why the Niners pass rush will have a dominant game against Sam Darnold and Co.

My original draft for this piece on why the SF 49ers‘ pass rush will dominate the New York Jets in Week 2 consisted of one sentence:  Because the Jets stink. When I realized I probably needed to elaborate on that, I expanded it to say: Because the Jets stink and their quarterback Sam Darnold stinks. However, upon further reflection, I determined that I needed to elaborate and explain how I came to this conclusion, and wrote the piece you see now.

For Week 2 of the NFL season, the SF 49ers head east to face the New York Jets. Coming off of a loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, the Niners are looking for their first win of the season. The Jets appear to be the perfect team for the 49ers to right the ship against. The 49ers should dominate the Jets this week, and perhaps the most prominent of the reasons why is the Niners pass rush will feast.

San Francisco’s pass rush is one of the best units in the NFL. This unit finished the 2019 season ranked as the second-best in the entire NFL, according to Football Outsiders. This group was one of the defining features of last season’s Super Bowl runner-up team, and the 49ers intend to make it a defining feature for years to come.

SF 49ers pass rush was good, not great vs. Cardinals

So, how did the Niners’ pass rush look in Week 1? Did it look like it was the same dominant unit they were in 2019?

At first glance, not really. The unit only recorded two sacks, and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray had a field day on the ground and through the air. However, on an individual level, many on the 49ers defensive line had good games. Defensive end Nick Bosa looked every bit the player he was in his breakout rookie season, consistently beating his blocker and putting pressure on the quarterback.

Perhaps even more important was the performance of rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who finished the week as Pro Football Focus’ third-best rookie, and more importantly, third-best overall at his position. Kinlaw was drafted 13th overall with the pick the Niners received for trading away star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Seeing Kinlaw perform well Week 1 is a good sign, as fans hope Kinlaw can replace Buckner on the Niners defensive line.

The Niners defensive line looks like it can dominate in 2020 the same way it did in 2019. And yet, that did not translate to the box score in Week 1 against the Cardinals.

That had a lot more to do with the 49ers’ opponent than it did their pass rush.

In Week 1, the Niners pass rush looked fine until it came to actually getting to the quarterback. They were able to consistently beat their blockers, get pressure to the quarterback, and suddenly, he was gone. That is because Murray is one of the best in the NFL when it comes to escaping pressure. So, while the 49ers pass rush played fine and proved it is still an elite unit, they still struggled to put up numbers because of Murray’s elite skill set.

They will not have to worry about an elite skill set this week against Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold.

SF 49ers pass rush can turn it up vs. NY Jets

Darnold is perhaps the opposite of an elite skill set. For some reason, scouts thought he would be a great NFL player after his mediocre career at USC. So far, they have not been correct. In his two seasons as an NFL starter, Darnold has finished as the 30th and 32nd best quarterback in the league, according to Football Outsiders.

For reasons I will never understand, many still believe Darnold will turn into an elite NFL quarterback. He is certainly not one right now. Unlike Murray, Darnold is not known for making plays with his legs and will not be able to escape the pressure brought by the Niners pass rush. He has taken 30 and 33 sacks in his two NFL seasons as a starter, and he played less than 16 games both of those seasons.

So, Darnold will not be able to escape the pressure. And there is no doubt the 49ers will be able to bring pressure. The Jets offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL, finishing as 30th in pass protection last season, according to Football Outsiders. The unit had a high amount of turnover in the offseason, which is never good for an offensive line.

Additionally, head coach Adam Gase is widely considered one of the most likely coaches to be fired midseason, so his leadership is unlikely to fix this line. Indeed, the Jets O-line performance Week 1 seems to show that, as Football Outsiders has it ranked 25th in pass protection at this point in the season.

The only bright spot for the Jets O-line is rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton, a giant of a man among a position of giants who outperformed expectations, especially in pass protection in Week 1, finishing as PFF’s highest-graded offensive rookie. However, while the Buffalo Bills defensive front the Jets faced in Week 1 is one of the better units in the NFL, they are nothing compared to San Francisco. Becton has yet to face off with a player of Bosa’s caliber, and Bosa should be able to give Becton a warm welcome to the NFL on Sunday.

Expect Bosa to dominate Becton and consistently get to Darnold.

The final reason the 49ers pass rush will dominate against the Jets is they likely will not have to worry about anything besides the passing game on Sunday. Jets star running back Le’Veon Bell was placed on injured reserve this week, and he leaves behind a less than stellar group of running backs. Frank Gore will likely lead the rushing attack. And as much as I love the 49ers’ former legend, at 37 years old, he is no longer the player he once was. Because of Bell’s absence, the Jets will not be able to have a consistent ground game, allowing the SF 49ers defensive front to focus on the pass rush, and not have to worry about anything else.

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The 49ers are poised to get their season back on track with a big win this Sunday against the New York Jets. One of the main reasons why is because their pass rush will feast. Why will the pass rush feast? Well, because the Niners pass rush is awesome, and because the Jets stink, and Sam Darnold stinks.