At some point this offseason, I had a disconnect with the back end of the San Francisco 49ers roster and didn't pay attention to it with the same intensity that I usually do. Rather than being able to name all 90 players today, there were times in the first two preseason games I had to take a quick look at the roster to check a jersey number, probably because there was so much other nonsense happening.
Suffice to say, defensive end/outside linebacker Marcus Rush wasn't anywhere on my radar.
I didn't do my usual pre-draft rankings this offseason either, so I missed Rush there as well. But Rush being entirely off my radar changed ... fairly significantly when the 49ers took on the Dallas Cowboys in preseason action. Rush stood out far above the rest of San Francisco's defenders and looked pretty darn disruptive.
It actually reminded me that I have, in fact, seen this guy play while covering the odd Michigan State game here or there. I did kind of know who he was, but I automatically assumed I was thinking of someone else because I figured the guy I was remembering would have been drafted. But nope, it looks like the 49ers may have landed a pretty significant potential gem.
Let me explain:
I set out to make some gifs of the 49ers defense yesterday, and while I ended up with a few Arik Armstead gifs, some looks at Eli Harold and Corey Lemonier and even some Lawrence Okoye sprinkled in, I wound up finishing with five or six different Rush gifs, and they were all pretty darn solid. He just has a second gear that nobody else on the field seemed to have in that game.
He really wants that sack, you guys. He doesn't get it, but he's so active with his hands, and his legs keep chugging even when the rest of his body hasn't quite figured out which direction it wants to go yet. If Rush was a G.I. Joe, the little rubber band holding his waist together probably would have snapped off on this play but darn it, he put the pressure on and that's what's important.
The running back actually makes a very good effort at slowing Rush down here, but probably shouldn't have stopped. I don't know what would have happened if the back kept going full speed into Rush, but I feel like that's also a battle the back wouldn't have won. Maybe he would have shattered into a million particles of glass and dust, or maybe he would have stopped him. Whatever the case, Rush forced the quarterback out of the pocket on this play, and looked good doing it.
This is a very heads up play, and not something I would have expected given how much Rush has been full go, 100 percent at the quarterback in the other gifs. He's hitting the tackle with ridiculous force in the other gifs, but he stops, adjusts and takes down the running back before he can pick up the first down. That's a heads up play we've come to expect from 49ers linebackers over the years. Nothing overly complicated or special, but what you want to see out of an undrafted free agent in particular.
This one I'm including mostly for fun, you know. Rush starts to push his man back big time and then La'el Collins, the tackle who got a whole heap of praise in Week 1, hits Rush at full speed and what does Rush do? He grabs the dude and tosses him aside like he's just done with him. That guy is on Rush's field and he isn't having any of it, so he just casually tosses him aside and gets on with the football game.
I don't have much else to offer on what Rush's potential is or what his ceiling looks like. Obviously, he's going up against backups for most of this game and we have to temper our expectations based on that, but the 49ers have some serious issues at his position and there could definitely be room for him on the roster. I'm assuming his status depends on either a battle with Corey Lemonier or whatever happens with Ahmad Brooks.
At the very least, though, I'll be keeping a close eye on him going forward, especially in the third preseason game where I hope he gets an extended look earlier than he might have before. Mike Purcell had a great first game and that led to him getting what I judged to be a reward of more playing time with starters in the second preseason game. We might see something like that for Rush next time out.