When they are at their best, the 49ers defensive line comes at you in waves. When the starters leave the field, the second-team can still get after the quarterback. That’s been the case since Robert Saleh was calling the defense.
This year, the Niners haven’t had the same luxury. There was going to be an inevitable drop-off after Charles Omenihu and Samson Ebukam left during free agency. The 49ers elected to pay Javon Hargrave and count on interior pressure instead.
That’s left a void on the edge. Last year, Ebukam and Omenihu had pressure percentages of 14 and 13 percent, respectively. Through eight games, Clelin Ferrell and Drake Jackson have pressure percentages of seven percent.
Jackson has not pressured the quarterback since Week 4. He has yet to hit the quarterback this season. General manager John Lynch joined The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami earlier in the week, and Jackson was among the topics.
Here’s Lynch when he was asked whether Jackson’s season has been disappointing:
“I wouldn’t call it disappointment. I think he’s going through some struggles that you see players go through. I would say Drake’s been a little nicked up, too. He’s been dealing with some things that have him just not feeling at full strength all the time.
So I think fighting through things, had a tremendous offseason, a very talented young man. Started the season with a bang, with three sacks, and the second year is an interesting year for players. I’ve always thought that. And I think you continue to work and throw energy and time into a guy like Drake because of what he ultimately can become.”
The 49ers in-season moves would say otherwise. Adding Randy Gregory and Chase Young into the fold all but phased Jackson out of the rotation.
Against the Bengals, Jackson only saw the field for ten snaps. That was the fewest among all defensive linemen. The last time Jackson didn’t have the lowest snap total along the line was in Week 4, when he out-snapped Kerry Hyder Jr., who is no longer on the team.
Lynch told Kawakmi that, “Drake’s going to have to fight to earn the reps.” That won’t be easy to do if Jackson is banged up and battling against a former first round pick in Young.