49ers vs. Eagles: 3 areas DeMeco Ryans must improve in Week 2
By Peter Panacy
No. 1: 49ers can’t get too ‘blitz happy’ against Jalen Hurts
San Francisco didn’t rely too much on the blitz under former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh; that aspect only increasing in 2020 amid all the injuries the 49ers suffered over the course of the year.
If Week 1 was any indication, DeMeco Ryans’ defense won’t be blitzing a lot this year either. The Niners’ 9.5 blitz percentage last Sunday was fifth lowest out of all 32 teams anyway.
Still, there might be a tendency for Ryans to open up the blitz packages a bit more in Week 2, especially against Jalen Hurts, the kind of mobile signal-caller who has been one of San Francisco’s biggest challenges in recent years.
No mobile quarterback is easy to defend, true. But Hurts, somewhat surprising for a relatively inexperienced player, has actually performed well against the blitz over his brief career. In 2020, per Pro Football Focus, he completed 56.9 percent of his passes when blitzed, which isn’t overly great, but his 104.0 passer rating suggests it’s not a massive problem when he’s facing extra rushers.
On top of that, having a viable receiving option out of the backfield like Miles Sanders presents a unique problem, as Philadelphia’s offense is already tailored to Hurts’ short-area passing game anyway.
Ryans might still call upon the well-timed blitz, yes. Yet it shouldn’t be too frequently used.
No, instead, the 49ers need to be patient with their rushes and look to bump receivers off their release to prevent those quick passes, all the while discouraging Hurts to use his legs.