SAN JOSE -- The 49ers may need just one quick step in order to improve their biggest area of concern this season.
The 49ers ranked tied for 26th in the NFL last season with 30 quarterback sacks. The club declined this offseason to pick up the option on veteran Elvis Dumervil, who led the 49ers with 6.5 sacks. The 49ers have been unable to generate much of a pass rush since the release of Aldon Smith prior to the 2015 season.
So much of the onus for an improved pass rush falls onto the shoulders of DeForest Buckner, the team’s best defensive player. He recorded just three sacks last season but is clearly capable of so much more.
Buckner said the emphasis of his offseason training is to find that extra step. He led the NFL last season with 19 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I had too many, you know, almosts," Buckner said at a gathering to announce events connected with the college football national championship game, which is coming to Levi's Stadium on Jan. 7, 2019. "And I’m just really trying to find that extra step in my game.
“And I really think it’s going to help me this year, especially working this offseason, finding that extra step – whether it’s footwork, getting my strength up in my lower half. I’m working on everything I can to get that extra step so I can really finish those sacks.”
Buckner has the ability to generate a pass rush from the interior of the line. The 49ers are counting on contributions from a long list of potential pass-rushers, including Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair, Cassius Marsh, Jeremiah Attaochu, Eli Harold and Pita Taumoepenu. The 49ers could also add a pass-rusher -- as early as No. 9 overall -- in the upcoming NFL Draft.
“I think we have the guys, the tools, to do it right now,” Buckner said. “And if they want to go out and get an extra guy to help out the team, it’s a benefit. Right now, we have the pieces to do it. We all know we have to be more consistent.”