49ers Defense Needs More Pressure
Not many positives were taken away from the San Francisco 49ers season opener last Sunday, when they were defeated 23-3 at the hands of the visiting Carolina Panthers. In a contest where San Francisco turned the ball over twice (five times if you include the three failed fourth down conversions), and created 10 penalties, it was evident that the 49ers were their own worst enemy.
They will have to play a much better game this Sunday as they go on the road to take on the division rival Seattle Seahawks. Even though the score itself doesn’t show it, the defensive side for the 49ers actually played a solid game against the Panthers offense.
Carolina rushed for a total of 116 yards as a team last Sunday but only averaged 3.1 yards per carry, which is a positive step in the right direction for a 49ers run defense that surrendered an average of 4.8 yards per rush on the ground during the 2016 season. If the 49ers front seven can start generating more pressure, this will bold well for the defense as a whole including the secondary.
The pass rush last Sunday was non-existent as the 49ers defense only hit Panthers quarterback Cam Newton three times all game. With all the time Newton had inside the pocket, the secondary of the 49ers were at times out of place on their assignments.
The fact that Newton is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery on his right throwing arm may have been the saving grace preventing the 49ers from being blown out even worse.
But the same should not be expected this Sunday when the 49ers face Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has historically made a living performing well against San Francisco. Taking on a Seattle offensive line that is considered the weak point of their offense, the 49ers front seven must take advantage of this situation and get after Wilson. If for some reason Wilson is given the time inside the pocket for most of the game, it will be another long day for the 49ers’ defense.
If the 49ers are going to go on the road and steal one from Seattle this Sunday, defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner must assert themselves and lead the charge for the front seven. San Francisco will unfortunately be without rookie linebacker Reuben Foster as he will be out at least a month nursing a high ankle sprain, so look for veteran linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong to fill in the void and step in. The energy Foster provides for the 49ers’ defense will greatly be missed, but Armstrong is a savvy veteran who can hold his own on the field.
This is a great opportunity for the 49ers defense to redeem themselves after last week’s loss to the Panthers and put defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s “All Gas, No Brakes” philosophy to work. The defensive unit for the 49ers are stacked with talented players who know how to locate and get after the football, now it is just a matter of piecing everything together and playing smart as a team. But if the 49ers are going to win at Century Link Field for only the fifth time ever this Sunday, their front seven must dominate the Seahawks offensive front within the trenches and prevent Wilson from beating them once again.