Four weeks in, Niners Live hasn’t missed a step in keeping the Faithful in the know on 49ers news. From the pregame matchups to the post-game summaries and assessments, the updates and news are consistently circulating. With the week 4 game in Arizona in the books, we present the post-game assessment of the “Front 7.”
Who showed up (individual player assessments by technique)
Weakside linebacker (WILL)
Ray-Ray Armstrong led the defense with 10 tackles (8 solo) and one sack. It’s good to see Ray-Ray active and productive again. For a minute there, he seemed to be missing in action. Welcome back.
Middle linebacker (MIKE)
NaVorro Bowman was tied for the second most tackles with 8 (4 solo) and accounted for one of the quarterback, hits on Carson Palmer, but has yet to truly have an impact on the game as he has in recent years. He also dropped a sure interception that can surely be called one he’d love to have back. The interception would’ve been a huge momentum shift for the 49ers, possibly giving them the spark they needed. Bowman is still among the team leaders in tackles, but has been relatively quiet.
Right defensive end (big end/5/6 tech)
Solomon Thomas – Congratulations to Thomas for another solid game and, most importantly, his first NFL sack. Thomas recorded 5 tackles and was very active. Needless to say, his first start was a success. Let’s hope he keeps this up and consistently plays like a first-round pick.
Right defensive tackle (3-tech)
DeForest Buckner had another solid game as he recorded 4 tackles and also collected his first sack of the season and continued to show he’s only scratching the surface of his potential.
Left defensive end (LEO/5 tech)
Elvis Dumervil officially entered the building and the 100-sack club as he accumulated sack 100 and 101. Now, let’s just hope he can continue to add to that total as the season carries on. He’s a big a part of the success of this front 7 and pass rush.
Have you seen me? (Limited/no impact on the game)
Left defensive end (LEO/5 tech)
Arik Armstead was non-existent in game four and recorded a donut in the tackle column. It seemed like the 49ers only had 10 men on the field, he was so quiet. This is a problem and has to change!
Strong-side linebacker (SAM)
Eli Harold has a modest 2 tackles and recorded one of the 49ers six sacks in the game. Other than his sack, one would’ve needed to double check the inactive list to make sure his name wasn’t on it, as quiet as his game was. With his skill set and versatility, this defense needs him to be much more productive and active for this defensive front 7 to be dominant.
The big picture (group assessment)
The front 7 had its best showing thus far against the Arizona Cardinals as they sacked Carson Palmer six times. The defense also either pressured or hit Palmer on a fairly consistent basis. Though there were a few blitzes sent early on, the majority of the pressure came without blitzing. The pressure the 49res were able to dial up resulted in Palmer hitting the turn on multiple occasions. For the most part, the defense (at least the front 7) played well, allowing only 51 rushing yards, and the defense even kept the Cardinals out of the end zone in regulation. The issue is with the coverage in the secondary, not so much with the pressure up front.
Those familiar with the sport of football, know coverage and quarterback pressure goes hand in hand. A team can get away with having one and not the other, but the lack of both coverage and pressure, is bad news. Though the 49ers suffered another loss, the defensive front 7 is beginning to find its stride and see contributions from multiple players. Unfortunately, due to the loss and not getting to Palmer when it counted most (the overtime touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald), a solid A couldn’t be justified.
Overall grade: A-
Areas of improvement (group assessment)
Consistent pass rush off the edge – As stated before, the 49ers have yet to find a consistent pass rush, especially off the edge from their LEO position. Aside from Dumervil and his two-sack performance, the defense has failed to create pressure on early downs off the edge. Whether it’s Lynch, Armstead or somebody else, someone needs to step up soon and show themselves as a threat to consistently create pressure and be a threat as an edge rusher. If not, opposing quarterbacks will consistently benefit from increased time in the pocket and make the defense pay by playing a friendly game of catch with their targets.
What to look for next week on the road against the Indianapolis Colts (The Wrap-up)
The Indianapolis Colts are coming off a disappointing road loss and will look to take out their frustrations on the 49ers. Jacoby Brissett may not be a top-tier quarterback, but he is very capable of finding targets with enough time due to lack of pressure. If the 49ers front 7 cannot generate the same type pass rush they displayed versus the Cardinals, Brissett will play catch with receiving threats T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief as if it was 7 on 7 and in turn, hand the 49ers their fifth straight loss. Let’s go front 7, continue to create pressure and hopefully turnovers, and go get that first win. Go Niners!
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.