The San Francisco 49ers had their first padded training camp practices on Saturday and Sunday, and we got to see a little bit more of how the pass rush has been developing. Getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks was one of the challenges facing last year’s defense and as a result, the team brought in pass rush specialist Chris Kiffin to help coach the defensive line, signed Jerry Attaochu, and extended Cassius Marsh.
With pads on, the intensity of physicality at practice obviously goes up, but the players are specifically instructed not to tackle or ever take anyone to the ground. They are also never allowed to touch the quarterback. That being said, it can be challenging for players to rush through the line and pull up as right before they reach pay dirt.
Arik Armstead spoke to the media after practice and explained:
You have to learn how to practice well, learn how to go through your progressions and continue to rush and work yourself, but then at that last second, back off. You can’t get your quarterback hurt, as a vital part of your team. You have to work your technique and what you can do then at the last second chill out.
Armstead also spoke about what Coach Kiffin has the defensive line focused on:
Coach Kiff has been great. He’s been us teaching a lot. They brought him in here to focus on getting us to become better pass rushers and I think he’s doing an excellent job. He's teaching us a lot of technique, We work on pass rush every day, footwork and hands. As a pass rusher you have to sharpen your tools every day. It’s good to have him help us with that.
While it is only the third and fourth day of training camp, the defensive line has been getting increased pressure on all of the quarterbacks. Some of these stats are subjective and there was some debate on the sidelines if they would have been sacks in a live game situation. If a defender gets past the line to the QB, the defender raises their hands and the play continues.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke to the media after the two padded practices and said that while he still has to look at film, he felt like the defense looked fast on the field and he has been pleased with their work so far. He also added that he believes that sack stats are overrated. Getting pressure on the quarterback and making him uncomfortable is more important.
Unofficially there have been several coverage sacks and pressures from the defense on all of the quarterbacks during trading camp which can only give us all hope that they will continue to improve as they move towards the regular season.