SF 49ers: Jordan Willis needs more field time in Week 12 vs. LA Rams

Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams under pressure against the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams under pressure against the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers have used EDGE Jordan Willis to a small extent this season, but he should be on the field a lot in Week 12 vs. the LA Rams.

The SF 49ers have lacked speed with their pass rush this season, particularly after losing edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to likely season-ending injuries.

While still boasting some talent and a pressure rate of 24.1 percent, seventh best in the league entering Week 12, the Niners are failing to accumulate sacks. Their 18 on the season ranks 11th fewest, meaning pass-rushers just aren’t quite getting to opponents’ quarterbacks.

San Francisco visits the LA Rams in what’s essentially a must-win game for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. if they want to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive. At 4-6, any remaining loss for the SF is going to have horrendous implications in the oh-so-tough NFC West. But with the Niners holding one win over their division rivals already, going 2-0 in the season series could prove to be the difference in determining playoff positioning.

So it would make sense for Shanahan to deploy a certain matchup in Week 12 to make the most out of the LA Rams’ own shortcomings.

In particular, giving EDGE Jordan Willis more field time.

Willis, whom San Francisco acquired earlier this year from the NY Jets, has only seen 60 defensive snaps (10 percent) with his new team. But he’s picked up 1.5 sacks during that brief period, and Week 12 could provide a context where Willis might have some success.

While Willis is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list, if cleared in time for Week 12, he needs to be a factor.

SF 49ers can use Jordan Willis’ speed vs. Joe Noteboom

The SF 49ers are dealing with injuries like no one else this season. But the LA Rams are also hurting, particularly after losing veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth to a serious knee injury in Week 10.

In Whitworth’s stead, Los Angeles is hoping third-year pro lineman Joseph Noteboom can hold the line.

Noteboom had to bulk up on his size to handle the bigger, stronger pass-rushers at the NFL level when compared to the caliber of linemen he saw at TCU. But that arguably cut into one of his better attributes: side-to-side movement. And the added weight could mean he’s less a force to defend against faster pass-rushers.

Few are faster than Willis.

Despite his lackluster NFL stats, one can’t overlook Willis’ sheer speed. Remember, he ran a 4.53 40-yard time during the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, and that quickness is something San Francisco’s defense has sorely missed from its defensive line this season.

Getting pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff is one of the best ways the SF 49ers can throw off his timing and force his errant throws.

And Noteboom might allow for the perfect opportunity, meaning Willis should see far more snaps in passing situations when possible.

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The SF 49ers and LA Rams kick off on Sunday, Nov. 30 at 4:05 p.m. ET.