3 ways SF 49ers stay in contention amid brutal injuries

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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Nick Bosa, SF 49ers
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

No. 1: SF 49ers defense needs to adjust without Nick Bosa

Let’s face it. Losing Nick Bosa for the season is a huge loss for this defense. His addition last season to an already talented defensive front took coordinator Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme to another level.

With Bosa drawing a great deal of attention and double teams on the edge, it freed up defenders like Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, and D.J. Jones to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The pressure created by the front four also allowed the secondary to make plays by limiting the time a quarterback had to release the ball, which gave receivers less time to break free in the secondary.

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When a team gets pressure rushing four up front, it means fewer blitz packages needing to be called. In fact, 2019 saw the SF 49ers finish the season ranked 29th in blitz rate at 20.9 percent. However, they ranked third in the league in sack rate (8.5 percent) and second in pressure rate,  Blitzing some quarterbacks can be risky business because if you aren’t able to get to him, it allows the potential for big plays downfield.

The Niners still have Armstead (10 sacks in 2019), Ford (6.5 sacks in 2019), Kerry Hyder (eight sacks in 2016), and the newly acquired Ezekiel Ansah (48 career sacks) to pressure opposing signal-callers.

However, with Bosa gone, Solomon Thomas out, and with cornerback Richard Sherman on IR until at least Week 4 with a calf injury, Saleh may need to call more blitz packages with players like strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, free safety Jimmie Ward, or even linebacker Fred Warner lining up from different spots on the field.

Disguising these blitzes could confuse quarterbacks calling out their protections, or catch the opposing team’s backs from picking up the blitz effectively.

Along with that, Saleh will have these guys moving all around the line. Armstead is comfortable lining up inside or out and locking down the edge. Also, look for Jones and rookie Javon Kinlaw to try and push the pocket from the inside even more with Bosa out. That will require Ford and Hyder to have even more impact than they have had so far rushing from the outside. If they are able to do that, it may disrupt some of the more effective passing teams the SF 49ers will face as the season progresses, and create opportunities for the secondary to generate some turnovers.

There is no doubt the team will be impacted by the loss of Bosa and Thomas to an extent, but good teams find ways to adjust and remain competitive and in the hunt for the playoffs.

If the SF 49ers have any chance of getting back to the playoffs and making a deep run, players on both sides of the ball will need to step up to counter all of their injuries. 49er fans will learn a lot about this team in the coming weeks, and if they have what it takes to battle through adversity.

Next. 4 pass-rushers who must perform with Nick Bosa out. dark

If they can make some adjustments and get some other healthy players back on the field, the SF 49ers season will be far from over.