We’re past the midseason mark and still have some football left. It’s time to look at all the 49ers units and discuss what we like and don’t like out of them for 2018.
Two things are very clear: Going into Week 9 against the Oakland Raiders, the 49ers were in the back half of quarterback pressures and after the Raiders game, their seven sacks skyrocketed them up in the rankings. At least for a week.
But make no mistake, the defensive line has been unable to generate consistent pressure to offensive lines. It’s not exactly a second too soon either; DeForest Buckner has been the best player on the line, but the times he’s hit the quarterback just moments after the ball leaves their hands has decreased in 2018. And Solomon Thomas? He’s been great at stuffing the run, but his pass-rushing, especially at the edge (what is the thinking process here rather than putting him inside) has been quiet. Arik Armstead has been absolutely silent, but then again, his position on the defense is one of those where if you’re not talking about him, he’s doing his job (similar to Eli Harold last year). Cassius Marsh has been the team’s resident pass-rusher, but his 3.5 sacks aren’t exactly speaking elite level quality for pass rushing. Ronald Blair has the exact amount of sacks as Marsh, yet he’s a bit more under the radar.
49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has come under fire for the defense giving up leads and leaving themselves unable to finish a game. Looking at the defensive line for all of this wouldn’t be a bad direction to point the finger. The 49ers simply cannot sack the quarterback. They’ve invested first round pick after first round pick to do so and still haven’t found a line that can generate pressure. And this has been going back to the Harbaugh days.
Is the missing piece an edge rusher? The 49ers currently sit for a high draft pick and Nick Bosa may be the piece to fix this. Or is it? Could edge rusher really be the one thing that transforms this defensive line or is it a larger problem that an edge rusher cannot fix?
On the flip side, the 49ers have been decent against the run ranking 16th in rush defense efficiency. It’s not world-beating, but this was a defensive line fighting for last place two years ago. At the very least they aren’t getting embarrassed on the ground anymore, rankings 17th in adjusted line yards. It’s not ideal, but it’s a work in progress.
There’s a lot of problems with the defense and perhaps the defensive line is a root. What are your impressions of the defensive line at midseason?