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49ers' secondary facing more pressure with pass rush ailing

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The 49ers will not have their top edge rusher, Nick Bosa, for the remainder of the season.

There is no telling when Dee Ford will be available. He is ticketed for at least a three-week stay on injured reserve with a back issue.

And the 49ers’ No. 3 edge rusher, Ronald Blair, is eligible to return after six games as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL that cut short his 2019 season.

But if you think that places more pressure on the 49ers’ defensive backfield, the longest-tenured member of the team says you have not been paying attention.

“I’m trying to see when we don’t face pressure,” free safety Jimmie Ward said, before breaking into laughter.

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The 49ers are coming off a season in which they had the best pass defense in the NFL. The 49ers allowed 169.2 net yards passing per game -- the best for any NFL team since the New York Jets allowed 153.7 in 2009.

“The media kind of talked trash about us last year, if you remember,” Ward said. “And this year, they still don’t talk about the DBs. So I just feel like every game is pressure. Because at the end of the day, when you watch the film, a lot of guys don’t just sit there and watch the D-line until they make a play. You watch the DBs. You watch the quarterback. You watch the wide receivers. You watch the running backs.

“I feel like we’re always in open space, so DBs are going to be the most-talked-about and will always have the most pressure on them.”

 

Ward was already the 49ers’ longest-tenured player before this week, but now his three-month advantage has turned into a full season.

Ward was a first-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2014. In July of that year, the 49ers signed long-snapper Kyle Nelson. The 49ers released Nelson on Wednesday after five bad snaps in the team’s 36-9 win over the New York Giants.

The 49ers return to action on "Sunday Night Football" against the Philadelphia Eagles (0-2-1) at Levi’s Stadium.

The 49ers have some moving parts in the secondary. Richard Sherman will miss his third game while on injured reserve with a calf strain. Emmanuel Moseley, who started the first three games, remains in the NFL's concussion protocol. Ward and Jaquiski Tartt still man the safety positions.

Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson stepped in at the cornerback positions and played well against the Giants.

Quietly, the 49ers' pass defense played at a high level against quarterbacks Kyler Murray, Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones through the first three weeks.

The 49ers rank first in the NFL, allowing just 5.7 yards per opponent pass attempt. They rank second in the league at 187.3 yards passing per game. And the team's opponent passer rating of 75.3 is third-best in the league.

RELATED: Are 49ers facing NFL's worst starting QB on Sunday in Wentz?

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz comes to Santa Clara after a stretch of three poor games to open the season. Wentz has thrown six interceptions and his passer rating (63.9) ranks 35th and last among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts.

But Ward said the 49ers are not taking him lightly because the quarterback they watch on film is still capable of doing it all.

“He can pass. He can use his feet. He looks off the safeties. He trusts his wide receivers. I don’t know. That’s a lot of stuff. I’m trying to think of something this quarterback can’t do,” Ward said.

“He’s just great. I feel like there’s just been some rough games for him. I don’t really have the answer for you why they’re doing so bad right now. But I feel like they’re just one or two plays away from easily being 3-0.”