49ers Edge Rushers Must Combine to Supplement Some of Bosa's Loss
There’s no replacing star defensive end Nick Bosa.
He was a legitimate defensive MVP contender. While those aspirations go on hold for a year, the 49ers are scrambling to restore some of that production.
With Bosa and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas out for the season with ACL injuries, the 49ers will rely on a combination of guys to fill in. Specifically, they require reserve Kerry Hyder Jr., the newly signed Ziggy Ansah and the oft-injured Dee Ford to step up.
Kerry Hyder Jr.
Hyder, who has been impressive off the bench thus far, is due for a major workload increase as he likely slides into the starting lineup, at least until the injured Ford is back from his back injury.
Through two games, Hyder is already at 85 snaps and has a sack. If his usage continues, he’s on pace for 680 snaps.
Hyder was an intriguing signing this offseason. After three disappointing years, one missed completely due to injury, he reunited with 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Kocurek coached both Hyder (2014-16) and Ansah (2013-17) in Detroit.
His final healthy season under Kocurek also happened to be his best and only one above 500 snaps (658). He had a career-high 36 tackles, eight sacks, 11 tackles-for-loss and 19 QB hits in 2016.
While Hyder is already exceeding expectations, Ansah and Ford remain question marks.
Former Lions and Seahawks pass-rusher Ansah, who’s been a rumored signing dating back to training camp, has reportedly come to an agreement with the 49ers.
When healthy, Ansah’s a real catalyst. While with Detroit under Kocurek, Ansah had 44 sacks, 57 TFLs and 103 QB hits.
Since his split from Kocurek in 2018, Ansah has seen a dramatic drop-off due to a mixture of effort and health issues.
Like Ford, he has trouble staying on the field. He’s been hurt a lot over the past four seasons and has just 6.5 sacks in his 18 games.
Maybe a reunion with Kocurek, one of the league’s best motivators, can get Ansah back on track.
Dee Ford (currently out with back injury)
Ford, a high-priced yet rarely healthy edge rusher, missed Week 2 with a neck/back injury. This comes after missing five games and countless snaps in 2019.
Although there’s frustration from Ford’s inability to stay healthy and live up to his contract, backs/necks are nothing to mess with. He should not play if he’s not 100% ready.
But once Ford heals up, he must play to the level he’s paid.
After a stellar 13-sack, seven-forced fumble season in 2018 with Kansas City, the 49ers traded their second round pick so Ford could reinvigorate their starved pass-rush. Ford quickly signed a five-year $85 million deal, which currently ranks ninth in the NFL among edge rushers (per Spotrac).
The 49ers doubled their investment in pass-rush in the draft. When Kyler Murray’s draft stock skyrocketed, Bosa became available at the second pick. The 49ers had their two edge rushers for the foreseeable future.
But the best ability is availability, and Ford’s rarely been able to go. When on the field, he’s dynamic. He had 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2019.
But he could not stay on the field. Despite playing 11 games, he played just 22% of their available defensive plays (226 snaps).
If Ford can return to his 2018 level, which is what earned him the big payday from the 49ers, he alone could supplement the Bosa loss.
It’s impossible to completely overcome the absence of Bosa. He’s easily among the most devastating losses of the NFL season thus far. But the 49ers have the high-upside talent to get close.
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