Last year, the 49ers finished tied for third in overall sack totals for the entire NFL. If you'd like, you can read that again to confirm that the words were arranged in exactly the order that you thought they might be but surely they couldn't be - they are. They had 44 sacks last season, which was, as stated, good for third place behind the Steelers and the Vikings. Not too shabby for a team that needed a pass-rushing linebacker and has 330 pounds of dead weight at the left defensive end position, yeah?
Surely something is amiss? It's pretty well documented that Manny Lawson is a bust and Parys Haralson is a bundle of false hope, right? I mean, I heard from a guy who knows a guy who's son is in the same scouting troupe as Matt Maiocco's son so ... I gotta figure this info is hard-nosed fact. Actually, it's all up for debate, but after the jump I'm going to give you my side of it.
ESPN's Mike Sando made aware to me a stat I didn't previously know. The 49ers sent five or more rushers only 30.5 percent of the time, which is 22nd in the league. To compare, the Jets sent five or more rushers 57.2 percent of the time, which was good for first in the league. The 49ers had 12 more sacks than the Jets last season. It's not the whole story, it doesn't factor in pressures or anything, which the Jets excelled at but it's just one point of comparison. So what does that mean for the current pass rushers the 49ers field? Well...
Manny Lawson led the 49ers in sacks last season with 6.5. That's right, the team's sack leader only finished with 6.5 sacks to his name. He also was mixed out more and more near the end of the season in favor of Ahmad Brooks, who posted six sacks of his own last year in limited time.
So that's two linebackers who played in limited time, both posting at least six sacks, while in that limited time only being "possibly" factored into being one of the five players sent to actually rush the passer only 30.5 percent of the time! That was a rather long sentence, but I assure you it's a correct sentence and figure.
Add into that equation Justin Smith and his six sacks, along with Parys Haralson and his six sacks and do the 49ers truly need to place outside linebacker a high priority in next year's draft? This blogger/reporter/sleep-deprived, over-opinionated jerk thinks not.
I'm going to quote two bits from one of the posters over at Niners Nation, Florida Danny, our stats guru over there. This is from a post earlier this year, in February:
Justin Smith's 35 hurries ranked 2nd in the NFL among DLs/LBs, behind only Jared Allen.
He goes on to talk about his prowess at stopping the run but that's not the focus here, but here's a longer bit about Manny Lawson, the 49ers resident omnipresence:
Remember how I said Willis was No. 12 among LBs in completion stop rate? What I strategically withheld in that section was that he's actually not even the best Niner LB on that list. That honor goes to a player whom, up until now, I actually thought was frequently taken out in passing situations precisely because he wasn't all that good in pass defense. It turns out he's not just really good at defending the pass; he's also really good at making the QB pay for throwing a pass. Here's my third-most surprising stat, which again is actually two stats:
- Manny Lawson's 65 percent stop rate on completed passes ranked him No. 2 in the NFL among LBs.
- Lawson's 11 hits on opposing QBs were tied for the sixth-most among NFL defenders.
Wow. I-I-I-I did not know that. Manny Lawson is omnipresent. When the QB drops back to pass, Lawson gets a hit on him. Then, when the pass is complete, he's also there to tackle the receiver. Amazing.
So there's that going for him and the unit. Just take note 49ers fans and fans of other teams - the 49ers' pass rush as a whole was much better than you might think, and certainly better than advertised.