One of the biggest questions the San Francisco 49ers face is their lack of a pass rush heading into 2018. They haven’t done much to address their need for pass rushers, both in free agency and the draft.
Regardless, Kyle Shanahan seems pleased with where the group was going. In his press conference following Tuesday’s practice, he indicated he’s excited and this is the best practice for the pass rushers:
“It did feel like it and it felt like it two days ago also. We’ve had three days in pads. I thought our first day, I was disappointed with it. The next day I was extremely excited and today it felt the same or if no better than our last practice. So, I’ll see when I get in, but that was a step in the right direction.”
One of the questions I’ve always asked is if the line just needed time to gel and get chemistry. Given the talent the 49ers have had on that line, I often wondered with all the moving around and the additions of Solomon Thomas last year meant the line just needed some time to develop that chemistry. Shanahan had a nice comment on the chemistry as well:
“I’ve been real happy with that group, with some of the new guys we’ve brought in. Bringing in [pass rush specialist Chris Kiffin] Kiff and adding him to that room and just watching him and [defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina] Z work together. I think the guys have really bought into what both of them are preaching and I can see our guys getting better each day. I think all of our guys, their technique and their craft, they have really honed in it and it’s shown to me and they’ve become harder to block.”
The big standout has been DeForest Buckner. We’ve already talked about how little respect the 49ers defensive tackle is getting in the league, but that’s not stopping him as he was an absolute beast on Tuesday. What’s notable is Buckner has been an interior lineman, but he’s been spotted and tried at the edge position and from Shanahan’s account, Buckner may be rotated to the edge rusher role as well in a pinch. If Buckner can roll as an edge rusher, his versatility on the line will be unparalleled and he’ll be invaluable to this defense.
Here’s a good look at the 49ers pass rush in drills on Tuesday from some video Grant Cohn posted:
Maybe the 49ers pass rushers will be better than we give them credit for.