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Golden Nuggets: Pressures are nice, but quarterback hits and sacks trump everything

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for August 8, 2020

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Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Happy Saturday. We’re nine days away from the San Francisco 49ers putting on the pads.

Let’s start with an article from my buddy Stephen Ruiz of USA TODAY. He wrote an in-depth article on how pressures don’t really affect the outcome of a drive like we think, and it’s probably time to stop referencing them. Something we’ve talked about for years, but Steve presented evidence.

Getting Home, Part 1: You can’t win in the NFL if you don’t pressure the QB

All pressures are not created equal and it’s not enough to simply bother a quarterback. FiveThirtyEight’s Josh Hermsmeyer found that pressure plays were worth 0.41 EPA for defenses in 2019, but they weren’t necessarily drive-killers. Hermsmeyer writes…

“Over the past three seasons NFL teams forced the opposing offense to punt 5.7 percentage points more often when they pressured the QB at least once on a drive.”

That punt rate spiked 18.2 percentage points when a defense actually sacked the quarterback, and those sacks were worth 1.47 EPA per play. PFF analysts Timo Riske and Sam Monson came to a similar conclusion about the importance of converting pressures into a sacks:

“On all passing plays, teams manage a first down on a series 60% of the time. But that number plummets to just 20% on plays with a sack. Again, repeating the findings at 538, sacks moved the needle hugely while other types of pressure were not nearly as devastating to the offense, with one notable exception: hits in the throwing motion.”

According to the PFF study, NFL offenses were able to convert a series of downs into a first down 57.5% of the time when a defense hurried the passer on at least one play. The first-down rate dropped to 52.6% when the defense hit the quarterback after a pass was thrown. So at the play level, pressure matters but not necessarily in the big picture view of things. To really derail an offense, the defense has to make contact before a quarterback gets rid of the football.

From Pro Football Focus:

“The first big swing we find is on plays where a quarterback was hit while throwing. This reduced the chance of a first down on the series to 33.5%, moving it closer to plays with a sack. These plays almost always fall incomplete, but they can also put the ball in harm’s way and cause turnovers.”

When defenses were able to get the quarterback down for a sack, the first-down rate plummeted to 20%. So, maybe analysts have had it wrong about Brady this whole time. It’s not quite enough to just move him off his spot. If you want to truly stop Tom Brady, or any NFL quarterback for that matter, you have to hit him. And it’s far easier to hit a quarterback in the pocket when he has no way to escape.

Bosa v. Williams is the main event: Who’s on the 49ers’ training camp undercard?

WR Trent Taylor and CB K’Waun Williams

This may have been the liveliest matchup during last year’s training camp. Garoppolo often looked in Taylor’s direction during move-the-chain sessions, especially on third downs and around the goal line. They usually were successful.

That is, except in instances in which Williams was covering Taylor out of the slot. Williams is extremely sticky in coverage and no one is eager to call pass interference (or defensive holding) penalties during practices. That led to some serious battles between the two late in practices when the offense is desperately trying to one-up the defense, and vice versa, before the day’s session ends.

Williams and Taylor are the two smallest players on the roster, which makes for a nice quickness-versus-quickness matchup. As is the case with McKinnon and Alexander, Taylor’s matchup with Williams will be a good gauge on whether Taylor has fully bounced back from last season’s foot injury. Both players are scheduled to be free agents in March.

Dion Jordan signing bolsters 49ers’ D-line with 6 or 7 first-round picks — depending on how you count

The 49ers officially announced Dion Jordan’s signing Friday to their defensive line that is rich with first-round draft picks.

How rich? Technically, seven.

Let us count the way:

1. Jordan (2013, No. 3 overall, Dolphins)

2. Dee Ford (2014, No. 23, Chiefs)

3. Arik Armstead (2015, No. 17)

4. Solomon Thomas (2017, No. 3)

5. Nick Bosa (2019, No. 2)

6. Jonathan Kongbo (2019 CFL, No. 3)

7. Javon Kinlaw (2020, No. 14)

Jordan’s one-year deal comes with low risk and adds depth at pass rusher, where the 49ers could use an experienced backup to starters Nick Bosa and Dee Ford.

Shanahan already seeing Jimmy G start to take next step

“Jimmy did some real good things, but he’s just getting started,” Shanahan said Thursday on KNBR’s Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks.” “And that’s why Jimmy’s not a finished product. He’s almost a second-year quarterback with a lot more mental experience because he’s been around the league. But I’m excited for him to go into his second year, especially, last year when he came back, coming back from the ACL, just in training camp and stuff, he worked hard on all the mental stuff. But you can tell what a guy’s concern is. When you’re coming off an ACL, your concern is, ‘Man, can I do this?’ That takes a guy a while to get into stuff.

“Me seeing him now, talking to him on Zooms, but really just seeing him throwing with the wideouts on air, and getting into these walk-throughs, you can tell that he wasn’t working on his ACL all offseason. He’s been working on everything that he learned through his experiences of last season. And when you can do that, I don’t see how you won’t get better.”

Report: Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar will not be prosecuted for armed robbery

The Seahawks may have just gotten back their starting corner. ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe, among others, has reported that Quinton Dunbar will not be prosecuted for armed robbery due to a lack of evidence.

The one wrinkle that is yet to be ironed out is whether or not anything will come from the alleged payoff that took place at Michael Grieco’s office, the former attorney for Dunbar. Prosecution said it had evidence that the five individuals who provided sworn statements to the police were paid off to change their story and sign sworn affidavits that cleared Dunbar of any wrongdoing.

There’s also a possibility that the NFL still decides to suspend Dunbar, but that feels unlikely without official charges being filed.