49ers Pass Rush: A Matter Of Scheme Or A Matter Of Talent?

Yesterday evening Mike Sando put together a chart looking at how frequently teams blitzed six or more defenders in 2010. The New Orleans Saints were the big leader with 130 6+ man blitzes, which averages out to 8.1 per game. The next closest team was the Eagles with 84 such blitzes, or 5.3 per game. The Saints finished the season 18th in the NFL with 33 sacks, while the Eagles were tied for tenth with 39 sacks.

At the other end of the spectrum the San Diego Chargers apparently sent six or more man blitzes only nine times the entire season. What's impressive is that they finished the season tied for second in the NFL with 47 sacks. The one problem with this chart and the stats in general is it can be hard to find a ranking of teams based on quarterback hurries and quarterback hits. A sack is ideal, but sometimes a hurry or hit can be enough to disrupt the timing of a play and lead to an interception or a tipped pass.

The 49ers finished the season ranked 27th with 25 rushes of six or more men and finished 14th in the league with 36 sacks. The 49ers are a perfect example of why stats on QB hurries and hits would be so useful. They rolled up some decent sack totals, but there were so many times you just wondered whether the pass rush was actually happening.

As the team moves into 2011, a more consistent pass rush would be a big plus. An improved pass rush could be a huge boon for the secondary, whether it includes some names from 2010 or gets a complete makeover. The question is whether they can find that monster pass rusher. If they stick with the 3-4 it'd be nice to have an outside linebacker who can just barrel through the line. If they switched over to a 4-3, a big defensive end to complement Justin Smith would be the big addition.

Is this an area the team would need to invest a high pick in or big free agent dollars, or would a change in scheme be a difference-maker? If they decide to bring back Manny Lawson, he and Ahmad Brooks bring some serious talent to the table. Justin Smith is a big presence in the current 3-4 defense and could be a monster in the 4-3, as we saw in the instances of its implementation during the end of the Nolan era (and I believe drummer mentioned in a previous thread).

Is the talent enough to scheme around, or do big dollars have to be invested this offseason whether it be through the draft or free agency?

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