The San Francisco 49ers injury report has been a lengthy one this year, and few positions have avoided hits to the depth chart. One position that has seen a notable shift on the depth chart is at linebacker, where Brock Coyle has gone from special teams player Week 1 to likely full-time starter the rest of the season.
Pro Football Focus recently put together a ranking of linebackers as pass rushers. It is not looking at pure edge rushers, but rather, players that don’t necessarily focus as much on rushing the passer. In rather surprising news (at least to me), Brock Coyle ranked No. 10 in pass rush productivity.
Through 10 weeks of the season, Coyle has made his presence felt in the pass-rush, and has accumulated three hits and two hurries from just 20 pass-rushing snaps. Going forward, the 49ers could look to use him in an expanded pass-rushing role, especially as the team faces off against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. In nine games, the Seahawks have allowed 151 total pressures (third-most among teams) and quarterback Russell Wilson is coming off two straight games of poor play under pressure, where’s posted a passer rating of just 49.9, 24th among the league’s quarterbacks.
He’s spending more time against the run, with the pass rush snaps the lowest among that group PFF ranked. Coyle has struggled in coverage and against the run, ranking in the bottom third of the league in run stop percentage. He is still the guy with the green dot calling plays, but Reuben Foster likely will take over that role sooner rather than later.
The 49ers entered training camp with NaVorro Bowman and Malcolm Smith slotted in at middle and weak side linebacker. Smith was lost for the season before the first preseason game, and that resulted in Foster moving into the starting lineup. When Foster was lost to a high ankle sprain, Ray-Ray Armstrong moved into the starting lineup next to Bowman. When Bowman was released and Foster injured his ribs, Coyle was starting next to Armstrong. Now, Coyle and Foster are starting, with Armstrong serving in Coyle’s special teams role.
Coyle has not been great overall, but getting some pass rush help from him is certainly a positive. He signed a one-year deal with the 49ers, and the team will have a decision to make after the season. They will have Malcolm Smith returning from injury, and while they will need depth, there are plenty of options to consider similar to Coyle, and potentially cheaper if they were so inclined.
But for now, at least he is getting at the quarterback to some degree!