At the start of a pivotal offseason, it was unclear what role Dee Ford would play for the San Francisco 49ers after missing most of 2020 with lingering back problems. In a Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions that proved too tight for comfort, Ford made it clear that he would be crucial to the Niners’ fortunes in 2021.
San Francisco dominated the vast majority of 41-33 hits at Ford Field. While Nick Bosa’s battle with rookie left tackle Penei Sewell was relatively even, the 49ers greatly appreciated control on both sides of the trenches, with Ford recalling why they traded a second-round pick for his services in 2019.
Ford, along with Bosa, finished with five presses (by Pro Football Focus) and a sack in a display that indicated his previous back problems would not prevent him from enjoying a bouncing season.
The former Kansas City boss consistently showed speed and blew up the edge that made him such a tough pass runner to stop, Ford doing a great job using his flexibility to bend and flatten at the quarterback. and translating his speed into power to drive the pass protectors back.
And when the Niners needed him most to deliver in Week 1, Ford answered the bell.
Ford, Bosa and Samson Ebukam each lobbied to affect Lions quarterback Jared Goff as he tried to lead Detroit to tie the game amid a remarkable Niners near meltdown, preventing him from entering the ball into the end zone and forcing a decisive turnover on the downs.
The 49ers may need to rely even more on Ford and the front to build pressure given the injuries they already suffered on their starting defense.
San Francisco has lost Jason Verrett for the season after suffering an ACL tear in Detroit and will be without Dr. Greenlaw for six to eight weeks, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, with the linebacker undergoing trunk muscle surgery.
These are big but survivable blows to DeMeco Ryans’ defense and, for the Niners to withstand those losses, they’ll need the defensive line to continue to excel at squeezing the quarterback.
Bosa, Ford and Co. will have a tough job against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. According to PFF, in their Week 1 win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Eagles offensive line gave only six pushes to quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has the mobility to consistently escape rushing and make move things with his legs.
Still, with their first two available outside pass rushers, the 49ers undoubtedly have the talent up front to cause trouble for any defensive line in the NFL.
After a return to peak performance that seemed unlikely at the start of the new championship year, the onus is on Ford to stay healthy and produce consistently for a defense that may need to lean on its line to be successful. in 2021.
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