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How much will 49ers pass rush impact Week 3?

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The San Francisco 49ers pass rush has been problematic through the first two weeks. Will we see any improvement in Week 3? If not, what can we expect from Drew Stanton?

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Thearon W. Henderson

One of the many 49ers story lines coming out of the first two weeks has been the lack of a consistent pass rush. Justin Smith and Aaron Lynch have done some solid work, but that has not been enough to overcome the lack of it from Ahmad Brooks and Corey Lemonier. There have been several articles worth reading:

Bay Area Sports Guy
Ron Kroichick (SF Gate)
Jeff Deeney (PFF)

Heading into the season, there were questions about the pass defense, particularly in the secondary. While Jimmie Ward struggled mightily against Brandon Marshall, the secondary has for the most part been fine.

The pass rush on the other hand has struggled without Aldon Smith. This is not a shock, but it is still a disappointment. Aldon Smith's pass rush skills are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the linebackers, but I really thought Corey Lemonier and Ahmad Brooks would be able to at least provide some measure of pressure. Brooks has a sack, but other than that has struggled. Per Pro Football Focus, Lemonier has 50 pass rush attempts, and no QB pressures. That is just not going to cut it.

The 49ers face a Cardinals squad that had a problematic offensive line the last few years. PFF has a stat called OL pass blocking efficiency, which measures pressure allowed on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks allowed. According to PFF, the Cardinals ranked No. 29, 30 and 32 over the last three seasons. This year, they are ranked No. 13. Two disclaimers: It has only been 2 games, and "pressure allowed" is potentially going to improperly account a pressure that might have been the quarterbacks fault. That being said, when you rank at the bottom, even a few mistakes in the calculation is not going to get in the way of a clearly awful offensive line.

Drew Stanton is expected to start on Sunday, although Carson Palmer was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. One would think the Cardinals would look to Andre Ellington and their defense to win the day, but if the 49ers cannot get a consistent pass rush going, the Cardinals could give Stanton some opportunities. Against the Giants, Stanton had an average depth of target of 11.9 yards. For comparison's sake, in 2013, Kap's aDOT was 10.1 yards, which was tied for second highest.

Stanton will not sustain that aDOT, but if the 49ers don't get to him, the Cardinals QB could have the time to let those routes develop a bit more. Stanton is not a great quarterback, but without pressure around him, Stanton could do some damage against the 49ers. If Lemonier and Brooks are not creating what they need, will the team actually consider using Tank Carradine a bit more? Or maybe additional snaps for Lynch? Any ideas?

Thanks to Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus for the above information.