Earlier today, I wrote about how Pro Football Focus named Elvis Dumervil the San Francisco 49ers best “secret weapon.” His pass rush productivity (pressures per pass rush attempt) are among the best in the league through three games.
Dumervil has been a situational player for the 49ers, coming into the game on passing downs. The 49ers defense has struggled at times when it comes to setting up third and long situations for Dumervil, thus cutting down on his snap totals.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh met with the media on Thursday, and was asked if there were plans to get Dumervil in the game more. He talked about the circumstances that have led to the level of work. The 49ers have faced the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams. All three have notable aspects to their passing games, but they are in many ways run first teams. Even with quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, Carolina and Seattle work to establish the run.
Saleh also acknowledged the team’s problems on first and second down. Elvis Dumervil is going to play primarily on 3rd and long situations, and when the opposition is setting up with 3rd and short or 3rd and modest, there are simply fewer opportunities.
This week against the Arizona Cardinals, Dumervil could prove key. The Cardinals run game has been in relative shambles with David Johnson’s injury. We will see a lot more of the short passing game to make up for the issues there, and of course, Carson Palmer will be expected to carry a sizable load in the passing game. It is critical the 49ers step up on first and second down to get one of their best current pass rushers on the field with more regularity.