Aside from having lost the last two games, the 49ers find themselves down one, and maybe two defensive starters for their Week 4 game. Patrick Willis‘ status for the game is still unknown because of a groin injury he sustained in Sunday’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Meanwhile, rusher Aldon Smith will be out for an indefinite time as he enters a rehab facility to address his substance abuse issues.
The loss of Smith presents a major headache for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as he will be without the services of his best pass rusher for a while. This is particularly significant given that the 49ers’ defense does not really blitz, and very rarely if they do. Instead, they rely on the pass rushing abilities of Smith to help get pressure on the quarterback.
With no Smith to be counted on in the field, how do the 49ers go about getting sacks on opposing quarterbacks?
The solution is a simple: the 49ers must blitz a lot more than they currently do in order to generate a pass rush. While it may not be what Fangio likes to do, he has no other choice at this point. While Ahmad Brooks plays on the opposite side of Smith in the 49ers’ 3-4 defensive alignment, he is nowhere near the pass rusher that Smith is with just 26.5 sacks in his career.
Rookie Corey Lemonier could come in and fill the role as he was known as being a pass rushing defensive end, but it is unfair to ask or assume that Leminier will be able to step in and perform right away. The 49ers could also count on another rookie, Tank Carradine, but he is still on the non-football injury list as he recovers from an ACL injury.
In short the options are slim at this point. Beginning with Thursday’s game against the Rams, it is clear that the 49ers and Fangio will need to dial up the blitz much more in order to generate a pass rush and get to the quarterback.