San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Arden Key has been one of the team’s most productive pass rushers over the past few weeks. He has recorded at least half a sack in 6 of San Francisco’s last 7 games and has been wreaking havoc from the edge and on the interior line. Key only had 3 career sacks before this season. In 14 games this year, Key has already recorded 19 tackles, 9 quarterback hits, 5 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss.
Key was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Raiders but never generated consistent contributions there. This past offseason, Las Vegas decided to release Key and make him a free agent. However, since signing with the 49ers prior to this season, particularly since he began shifting inside on passing downs, Key has become a legitimate threat.
49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans deserves some credit for helping unlock Key’s potential. However, when he was asked about the decision to shift Key around the defensive line in his weekly media availability on Tuesday, Ryans deflected all of the attention to Key himself. Ryans told reporters that he thinks “Arden has progressively gotten better and he’s proven to us that he can go in and be an effective pass rusher.”
Here’s Ryans’ full comments on Key’s recent success:
“Yeah, I think Arden has progressively gotten better and he’s proven to us that he can go in and be an effective pass rusher for us. And he’s, man, the past couple weeks, I don’t know if it’s been every week, but he’s consistently hitting the quarterback. And when you do that, that just gives us more confidence to give him more opportunities to go out and rush the passer. And that’s what he’s been doing, I think Arden is having a career year, the most sacks he’s ever had in his career. I’m so happy for him to be able to have the type of year that he’s having. I’m proud of the way that he works and I’m proud of what he’s doing on Sundays for us.”