With Nick Bosa on the sidelines, the SF 49ers pass rush falls to one man, Dee Ford.
Editor’s update: Since the writing of this article, Dee Ford has been listed as doubtful with a back injury for the Niners’ Week 3 contest against the Giants. But that doesn’t change his importance to San Francisco’s pass rush.
There is no doubt about it, the SF 49ers are in a very precarious position as their NFC Championship title defense gets off to a rough start.
While the win in Week 2 over the New York Jets was a welcome response to the slow start in Week 1, it came at a heavy cost as defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas suffered ACL injuries that have ended their season prematurely.
This requires a major shift for the Niners defense, as Bosa was the top talent on the defensive line by far and the big weapon on the loaded defensive line.
With Bosa out, San Francisco will need to rely on the next best pass-rusher to pick up the slack and produce the pressure the defense hinges on.
For the SF 49ers, this means they need to get Dee Ford on the field and have him tee off on opposing quarterbacks as best as he can.
The issue with Ford is very simple: The fact is he clearly hasn’t been able to be durable in his tenure with the 49ers, and the fact he’s unlikely to get more durable as his career winds down, means that he’s effectively playing the final years of his career.
This is the year where the team needs him to stand up, have a career year and pick up the slack.
Despite his durability concerns, Ford is a natural pass-rusher from the edge. He has a lightning-quick first step and can beat most tackles to the punch. If he can get his body together, double-digit sacks are well within his capabilities.
And that pressure is what the SF 49ers need.
The defensive scheme is predicated on the defensive line inflicting pressure by themselves, freeing up the other seven defenders into coverage to take away passing lanes and create turnover opportunities.
If the 49ers are forced to blitz to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks, then the entire defensive scheme falls apart and makes it vulnerable for offenses to pick apart.
On the upside, the fact is Ford does have the potential to fill a lot of the slack left behind due to Bosa’s injury, and the fact is the 49ers do need Ford to stay healthy and fulfill that potential.
If they don’t, the defense is in very dire straits indeed.
But if Ford can get the job done, the 49ers defense may not necessarily be on life support and the Niners could still yet be a threat in 2020.