Finding A Pass Rusher Critical to Turning Around 49ers' Defensive Woes

Jeff CarilloContributor IJanuary 12, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 17:  Nnamdi Asomugha  #21 of the Oakland Raiders breaks up a pass intended for Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on October 17, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With Nnamdi Asomugha now a free agent after having his contract voided in Oakland, fans from the other side of the Bay are clamoring for his services.

Asomugha is a legit shutdown corner, in every sense of the word. The man hardly racks up any major defensive statistics because he never has a chance to make a play. In 14 games this season, he recorded 19 tackles. In his eight seasons in the league, he has 11 interceptions, eight of which came in one season. 

One thing you could count on if you watched the Raiders the last eight years is Asomugha's name would likely not be mentioned throughout the entire broadcast. He shuts down his side of the field like no other.

Now, all compliments aside, I'm saying that Asomugha might not be the answer in San Francisco. Yes, it would be nice to see him in a 49er uniform, and it would be even better to see it come at the expense of the Raiders.

But maybe the key to turning around the 49er defense lies in the trenches. After all, if opposing quarterbacks don't have time to throw, it makes things that much easier on the secondary, no matter who is out there. Even for a guy like Nate Clements, despite the fact that he's proven to be nothing more than another overrated and overpaid 49er mistake.

One thing I know fans noticed throughout the season was the lack of a 49er pass rush. It was terribly evident in close losses in 2010. Take for instance the Monday night game against New Orleans, the Sunday night contest against Philadelphia, and the game most fans want to forget, the Oct. 3 road loss at Atlanta.

In each game, Drew Brees, Kevin Kolb and Matt Ryan made game-winning drives look effortless. Part of the reason can be attributed to a weak secondary, but the 49ers weren't exactly putting any serious pressure on the quarterback either.

While Asomugha would be nice, the 49ers must seriously consider addressing their defensive line. Last season, the 49er defense recorded 44 sacks, as opposed to only 36 this season. Not surprisingly, their interception totals dropped to 15, down from 18 last year. 

The lack of a pass rush led to a marked decline in San Francisco's ability to create turnovers, an area that made them a defense considered to be on the rise in 2010-11. The Niners only recovered seven fumbles all year, way down from the 23 recoveries the unit recorded last year.

All of these can be traced to the lack of a dominating defensive line in San Fran. Perhaps that is where the 49ers should start when rebuilding their defense. Build from the bottom up.