The 2010 NFL season got off to an rather inauspicious start for 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Coming off somewhat of a breakout 2009 season, Brooks suffered a lacerated kidney that caused him to miss most of training camp and the season opener against Seattle. Brooks had a sack in his return against New Orleans, but prior to last week he had been fairly quiet in 2010.
Then, last week saw Brooks get himself back on the radar. Starting OLB Parys Haralson left the Monday night win over Arizona with an ankle injury and ended up inactive and replaced by a rotation of Ahmad Brooks and Travis LaBoy. The rotation was rather solid as they combined for 8 tackles, 3 sacks, and 4 QB hits. Haralson was limited in practice yesterday and we don't know yet what the plan is for Sunday. I'd imagine we'll find out a bit more with today's practice report and Greg Manusky's press conference.
In his statistical breakout last year (or at least statistical improvement), Brooks finished the season with six sacks and five forced fumbles. It's interesting to note that five of the sacks and all of the forced fumbles came in three of the final five weeks of the season. Will this Haralson ankle injury potentially allow Brooks to unleash his massive potential once again? I have no reason to suggest why the close of the season is when it happens, although last year it really came when Brooks found a single role in the situational pass rusher mode.
This weekend against the Seahawks could certainly provide an excellent opportunity to unleash his pass rushing skills. The Seahawks have given up 29 sacks on the season, which ranks 20th in the NFL. They are also 20th in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate. They'll need to get some pressure on Matt Hasselbeck, particularly if Mike Williams is out. He'll likely have John Carlson as a safety valve but if the 49ers can get some heat on him that would certainly make life easier. Hasselbeck holding onto the ball while on his backside means fewer opportunities for Seahawks receivers to break away from seven 49ers defenders.
The 49ers managed one sack of Hasselbeck in week one and he made the 49ers pay several times, particularly thanks to the overly aggressive nature of the 49ers defense. And of course, even though the 49ers got four sacks last week against Green Bay, it didn't stop Aaron Rodgers from slicing and dicing the 49ers secondary. The 49ers need to get more than sacks on Sunday. They need to be knocking Hasselbeck down as frequently as possible. It might lead to some penalties given the NFL's serious crackdowns lately, but it might very well be worth it to slow down the Seahawks passing game.