With a healthy Nick Bosa, the 49ers' defensive line entered the 2021 NFL season as a unit that was expected to wreak havoc on opposing offenses throughout the league.
Pivotal to their defensive dominance in 2019, San Francisco's pass-rush -- led by Bosa -- was supposed to recapture some of its success from two years ago. So what happened?
Through three weeks, the 49ers' defensive line has generated a total of six sacks, which is about the league average right now. Their pressure numbers are more concerning though. With only 20 total pressures on the season, the defense currently ranks 30th in the league in that category.
In last Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers -- who were down to their third-string left tackle -- it looked as if the 49ers' defensive line was set to feast on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as Bosa consistently disrupted plays on the first drive of the game.
Following that drive, the Packers' offense was pretty much able to do whatever they wanted without much disruption. Former 49ers left tackle Joe Staley joined the "49ers Talk" podcast where he broke down how Green Bay was able to combat Bosa and the pass rush.
"Looking back at that game, I don’t care how fast you win and if you beat your guy immediately off the ball," Staley told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt. "If the quarterback is consistently getting rid of the ball in two seconds, you’re not going to pressure the quarterback, you’re not going to get there.
"I think there are ways where you can combat chip (blocks) and edge presence, and that’s running games and creating movements so you’re not just stagnantly rushing the edge and the tackles and rushing the guy that’s head up on you. You’re creating movements and switches and you can get an offensive lineman to get edgy. But for that to get home, you have to have a quarterback who is going to hang on to the ball longer than (two) seconds.”
Rodgers, who notoriously has one of the quickest releases among quarterbacks, will present a challenge to any opposing pass rusher. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who the 49ers face off against in Week 4 this Sunday, is known to hang around behind the line of scrimmage a little bit longer, while letting plays develop downfield.
“(Wilson) is a guy that’s going to sit back there and he’s going to let plays develop and try to get downfield," Staley added. "If they want to make an improvement and they’re going to get chips on the edge like they did last week and a gameplan to neutralize their rush, I think that’s one of the ways to solve that, is to create different looks up front and make those offensive lineman have to communicate and switch off.
"They have guys to do it, Arik Armstead, he’s one of the best to do that with the little pick stunts inside and the strength that he has. There’s ways to get around it, I'm not too concerned, but it definitely showed up in that game.”
Wilson has given the 49ers defense headaches for years, and will likely do so this upcoming Sunday. He is the furthest thing from a sitting duck in the pocket and can extend plays with his legs as well as any other quarterback. If he were to hold on to the ball longer than Rodgers did last week, maybe the 49ers' pass-rush could get home on a few big sacks.