2018 was an interesting year statistically for San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Ronald Blair. He wasn’t highly productive, but when he got there, Blair finished the play. I’m a big proponent of “sacks matter.” Blair finished with 5.5 sacks last year. He also finished with only 12 pressures.
Blair never started a game, but he played about 50% of the time last year. How much his playing time changes in 2019 will be telling. Solomon Thomas will likely play a heavy dose of his plays inside. Cassius Marsh played 60% of the snaps last year, but he’s a Seattle Seahawk now. The team will be looking for a consistent pass rusher that will be able to give Nick Bosa and Dee Ford a blow when needed. Blair will need to beat out the likes of Damontre Moore, Kentavius Street, and Julian Taylor.
Age: 26 (turned 26 on January 21, 2019)
Experience: 3 accrued seasons
Weight: 284 lbs
In the final year of his rookie contract as a fifth-round pick, Blair will make $720,000 in 2019. If cut, his dead money will be this year’s share of his signing bonus ($67K), and the Niners get to keep all $720K.
Why he might regress in 2019
It’s difficult to improve when you’re not on the field. Blair’s production could take a step back if he isn’t able to win that third pass-rushing role. Also, Blair didn’t play much meaningful football in 2018. The only time he played more than 60% of the snaps, came in December. By that time, the season was all but over. Athletically, the odds are against Blair. He’s short and doesn’t have a ton of explosiveness. On the defensive end, athleticism and length usually win.
Why he might improve in 2019
Somebody is going to benefit from Nick Bosa and Dee Ford being on the field. If it’s not Solomon Thomas, maybe that guy is Blair. Let’s say defensive coordinator Robert Saleh likes a package where he kicks either Bosa or Ford inside to rush the passer. Instead of kicking Thomas outside, that guy becomes Blair. Blair will solely have 1-on-1 opportunities as teams still have to deal with that Deforest Buckner guy.
If you recalled this quote from John Lynch on Blair a year ago, they like him:
We like his skill set. He’s a versatile player meaning he can really play three positions for us. He can play the big end, he can play the LEO, and he can play the three-technique in a limited pass-rush role. Shoot last week I saw him in a goal line play lined up at the nose. I don’t know how that happened, but I thought he played well last week.
If new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek can enhance Blair’s pass rush moves, his production will become more consistent in 2019.
Odds on making the team
Unless two of the Moore, Taylor, or Street combo have the training camp of their life, Blair isn’t going anywhere. With Blair’s experience and his contract, there’s no real value in releasing him. That is unless the names above make Blair expendable.