The San Francisco 49ers got a monster performance from Marcus Rush this past weekend, as the outside linebacker had three sacks against the Denver Broncos. Pro Football Focus graded him as their top edge rusher, and Bucky Brooks gave him an A for his performance. Brooks had this to say in his weekly preseason grades:
Whenever a defender registers a hat trick during the preseason, coaches will stand up and take notice. That's why Rush is probably making a move up the charts after notching three sacks against the Broncos on Saturday, one of which led to a turnover on a fumble. The blue-collar rusher outworked blockers at the point of attack to repeatedly knock down Denver quarterbacks in the backfield. After spending 2015 working on his skills on the practice squad, the second-year pro could carve out a role as a situational player off the edge.
Rush did solid things last year, and was able to learn a lot on the practice squad, facing Joe Staley frequently in practice. He has practice squad eligibility, but his performance Saturday has to have him even more on the radar than before. He has some questions about his ability to set the edge against the run, but he could very well find some work as a situational pass rusher.
The 49ers OLB depth chart includes Rush, Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier, and Jason Fanaika. It would seem at this point that Rush and Lemonier are competing for one roster spot. Lynch will sit out the first four games due to a substance abuse violation, which means the team likely keeps another OLB, alongside Brooks, Harold, and Tank.
Lemonier has been a regular on special teams, but if they can find some help elsewhere there, Rush could very well end up on the roster. I could see him inactive at times, but there are opportunities there. Prior to Saturday, I had Rush listed as a weak bubble candidate. I’m tempted to bump him up to strong bubble at this point. His performance came against reserves, but three sacks is still impressive. The big question now is if he gets more playing time further up the depth chart on Friday against the Green Bay Packers. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said he will get some more opportunities in practice, so maybe we see more of him in the first half on Friday.