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Why the 49ers should turn to Ezekiel Ansah to solve their pass-rushing problems

With DE Brandon Graham off the market, the 49ers should look at ex-Lion Ziggy Ansah.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers’ front office is likely spending all offseason cooped in their offices, watching film of every free-agent pass rusher on the market. With one of the big names, Brandon Graham, re-signing with Philadelphia, the 49ers have one less option to look at.

After taking a look at what Graham could bring to the table, it’s time to turn our attention to ex-Lions’ pass rusher Ezekiel — better known as Ziggy — Ansah. The former fifth overall pick by Detroit in 2013 is now hitting the free-agent market after six seasons as a professional.

Ansah’s most productive season came in 2015, when he racked up 14.5 sacks, forced four fumbles and had 47 tackles, leading to a Pro-Bowl selection. However, since 2015, the former BYU defender has only played in 34 of a possible 48 games, only managing 18 sacks in that time frame. A shoulder injury sidelined Ansah for nine games last season, giving the Lions and other potential suitors some concern over his health.

Despite the injury, 29-year old sack specialists don’t hit the free-agent market very often, so general manager John Lynch and Co. should do their due diligence. While the 49ers’ front office evaluate Ansah, let’s take a look at some of his highlights this past season to see what San Francisco could be adding along the defensive line.

In the season opener against the Jets on Monday Night Football, Ansah came to play, delivering a sack, four tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. In this first play, Ansah lines up at the bottom of the formation and has a straight, bull rush, beating the Jets’ left tackle and sacking Darnold for a loss of eight yards on the play.

On this next play, Ansah’s motor is on full display. On wide receiver screens, pass rushers are taken out of the play immediately, yet Ansah puts on a full sprint to chase down Jets’ wideout Quincy Enunwa for only a three-yard gain.

Doesn’t matter if the opposing offensive line puts up multiple blockers, the former Lion is able to shed the blocks away and bring down the Jets’ running back in the backfield for no gain on the play. Imagine if the 49ers can add this to linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.

What happens when offenses put tight ends in to block the former fifth overall pick? They get shed immediately and Ansah’s right there to make the tackle on Bears’ running back Tarik Cohen.

Lined up on the outside against the Panthers, Ansah blows past Carolina’s left tackle and takes down quarterback Cam Newton for a loss of eight on the play. The speed that Ansah shows off the edge is second to none and is much needed for San Francisco.

On this third-and-1, Ansah comes off the edge unblocked and is able to pull back running back Christian McCaffrey and make it close at the line of scrimmage. Once again, his speed off the edge to get into the play is extremely clear.

In their second meeting against the Bears, Ansah put on another stellar display, this time against backup quarterback Chase Daniel. On this play, the Lions’ pass rusher lines up wide and is able to get around the edge and chase Daniel from behind for the sack.

The 49ers should continue to turn over every rock to find pass-rushing help after their woeful season in that department. While Ansah’s injury last season should be of concern, I’m sure it’ll help during negotiations to get Ansah for a slightly lower price.