Thus far, and as always, Niners Live has consistently kept you, the Faithful, in the know in regard to all things 49ers, bringing you preseason updates, pre/post-game assessments (including grades) and summaries, match-ups, and even what to look for in the coming weeks. With the week 1 home opener vs. the Carolina Panthers behind us, we now continue that trend by bringing you the first regular season post-game assessment of the “Front 7”.
Who showed up (individual player assessments by technique)
Left defensive end (LEO/5 tech)
Elvis Dumervil had a quarterback hit/hurry but aside from that he was ineffective in the pass rush.
Right defensive tackle (3 tech)
DeForest Buckner led the defensive lineman with 6 tackles and was also the most active in terms of making plays, but he didn’t have enough impact to truly affect the Carolina Panthers offense or Cam Newton.
Middle linebacker (MIKE)
NaVorro Bowman recorded five tackles and three solo, but was relatively quiet in the loss.
Weak side linebacker (WILL)
Reuben Foster, as always, was all over the field in both the passing and running game. He recorded three tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass deflection before exiting in the in the 1st quarter with a lower leg injury (via team website). Thus far, it seems the 49ers avoided a crisis as Foster stated he expects to play week two against the Seattle Seahawks. However, now it’s being reported that he could miss games.
Ray-Ray Armstrong, while not the same caliber of player as Reuben Foster, played solid minutes in relief of Foster and led all linebackers with 6 total tackles and 1 assist.
Have you seen me? (yet to make an impact)
No need to single any one player out, seeing as how it was a team effort. So, let’s say the whole unit makes this list. It’s only week one and there is plenty of football left to play, so let’s hope for the best.
The big picture (group assessment)
While this new look front seven applied moderate pressure on Cam Newton (aka Superman), on the early drives, they failed to hit him early or often as discussed in The 49ers must hit Cam Newton early and often with “Extreme Violence”. There was more pressure than the meeting last year, there wasn’t nearly enough to truly have an impact on his play as the unit only registered two quarterback hits (DeForest Buckner and Elvis Dumervil) and zero sacks on the day.
Cam Newton looked more like Clark Kent today, but still had his way with the defense. Due to coming off a shoulder surgery and missing a large part of offseason workouts as well as preseason, he seemed to be rusty, as he missed wide-open receivers on multiple occasions. But, with an anemic pass rush, Clark Kent was all that was needed to beat 49ers convincingly, 23-3.
Clark Kent, my apologies, I mean Cam Newton, had no resistance for the most part as he had essentially all day to find any man that was running free. He even had enough time to find a phone booth and transform into Superman if he so desired. Yes, no exaggeration, that’s how little pass rush the 49ers generated. In defense of the front seven, they did start off on a good note (which is why it was a D and not an F) but as the game went on, they began to wear down and so did that early moderate pass rush.
Overall grade: D
Areas of improvement (group assessment)
The pass rush – No way to get around this, so I’ll just say it. This front seven and pass rush needs a shot of adrenaline. Without a pass rush to speak of, this will again be a long season for the San Francisco 49ers. At this point, the 49ers are going to have to send blitzes to create pressure, and it’s a known football fact that having to blitz to get pressure doesn’t bode well for a defense as it compromises the integrity of the coverage.
Tackling- There are still far too many missed tackles (many in the backfield) that should result in tackles for loss and 4th down punting situations, but instead, resulted in extra yardage and first downs. The unit does a decent job of getting penetration and making initial stops, they just fail to wrap up and finish the play.
Getting off blocks- Far too often the defensive lineman are seen getting caught up in wrestling matches with offensive lineman and failing to get to the quarterback or ball carrier. Better use of their hands, extending their arms, not allowing blockers to get into their body, and maintaining good pad level and leverage will help rectify this issue.
What to look for next week on the road against the Seattle Seahawks (The Wrap up)
A repeated performance like the home opener versus Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers heading into Century Link Field, on the road, and against a bitter Seattle Seahawks team coming off a loss, it is a must that this pass rush wakes up, and fast. Another absent pass rush versus the crafty and very mobile Russell Wilson will result in another long day and potential blow out if this unit cannot get to Wilson. On the bright side, this is a fairly young group with tremendous upside and they’re very coachable, so there is plenty to be hopeful for and look forward to. Let’s go Niners, time to bounce back!
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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 Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.