Two measures 49ers took to improve pass rush

It all starts defensively with the pass rush. The best secondary in the world is going to look pedestrian if the opposing quarterback can sit in the pocket all day. Without a pass rush, a defense is not able to generate as many turnovers. This is the subject of today’s question.


Question: Did the 49ers do anything to improve their pass rush this offseason?


Answer: Here are the measures the 49ers took to breathe more life into their pass rush and improve on the 30 sacks they registered as a team in 2008:


1) Elevated Manny Lawson into the role as a third-down pass-rusher. (After all, they drafted him in the first round of the 2006 draft primarily because of the pass-rush skills he showed at North Carolina State.)


Last year, the 49ers teamed Parys Haralson on one side with Roderick Green or Tully Banta-Cain on third downs. But, obviously, coordinator Greg Manusky and coach Mike Singletary believe Lawson is better than Green and Banta-Cain. Lawson will be a three-down player this season, while Green and Banta-Cain are no longer on the team.


2) Hired Al Harris as an assistant coach with the title “pass rush specialist.”


In his nine-year playing career, Harris’ official high in sacks was six in 1983 with the Bears. Harris, obviously, will devote all of his attention to the pass rush, while working alongside with outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Unfortunately, we may never find out directly from Harris about how he believes things are going. For the first time in 49ers history, position coaches – at least for now — are prohibited from speaking (on the record) with the media.


Manusky said a couple weeks ago that the major focuses during the offseason program have been on the pass rush and creating turnovers. Those goals are connected. Interceptions generally happen because a QB is pressured. And more than half of all fumbles occur when an unsuspecting quarterback gets the ball jarred loose during a sack.


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What the 49ers did not do was acquire a big-name free agent or draft pick to help in this area. The 49ers signed Marques Harris, who recorded eight sacks in 56 games with the Chargers in his first four seasons.


The club showed some interest in Jason Taylor and would have been interested in Greg Ellis, if the Raiders had not been inclined to award Ellis the kind of money he was seeking.


Everybody assumed the 49ers would exit the draft with at least one pass-rushing outside linebacker. However, the 49ers did not consider anyone available worthy of a pick in the first two rounds of the draft.


The 49ers traded their pick in the second round to the Panthers, who used it to select Florida State‘s Everette Brown. The 49ers thought Brown was not suited for their defense. He is a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme – not big enough to play DE in a 3-4 or agile enough to play outside linebacker.


Although the draft was deep in those pass-rushing outside linebackers, the 49ers found players at other positions they simply liked better.


So they decided to stick with Lawson, placing a lot of pressure on him to spark a pass rush that was severely lacking last season.


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Happy Father’s Day.


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