Heading into the 2014 season, the NFC West was considered loaded from a defensive perspective. The Seattle Seahawks had their Legion of Boom, the Arizona Cardinals had their young secondary, the St. Louis Rams had an incredible defensive line, and the 49ers talent depth was incredible.
From that group, the Rams have arguably had the biggest struggles with what was expected to be a strong unit. The Rams defensive line lost Chris Long for two months, and the line has not been the same without him. Well, let me correct that. The line has not been the same in the pass rush without him. The Rams line ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders's adjusted sack rate last season, but this year finds themselves ranked dead last. Amusingly enough (or maybe not so amusing), the 49ers are ranked No. 31.
Robert Quinn has apparently been finding himself subject to some more focus from offenses. He remains a force, although he has yet to record a sack. He has six QB hits and six hurries in his 90 pass rush snaps.
The question will now be how much blitzing the Rams do to compensate for their defensive line struggles. According to Pro Football Focus, the Rams have pressured the QB on 36.9 percent of snaps, but are blitzing on 45.1 percent of plays to do so. They have yet to record a sack this season when rushing four or fewer players. According to Pro Football Focus, Colin Kaepernick currently ranks second in the NFL in accuracy percentage when blitzed. If the 49ers offensive front can pick up the blitz on Monday, Kap could find himself in line for a big day.
While the Rams defensive front is struggling against the pass, their run defense is actually pretty solid. According to Football Outsiders, the Rams are fourth in adjusted line yards. The team as a whole has given up 4.9 yards per carry to running backs, but the biggest issue with that has been the back end of the defense. According to FO, the Rams rank No. 26 in second level yards allowed, and No. 30 in open field yards. Second level yards are those earned by opposing running backs against this team between 5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage, divided by total running back carries. Open field yards cover yards more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. If Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde can get past that front, there is a lot of ground to be gained.