The San Francisco 49ers still boast one of the top defenses in the NFL despite the raft of early-season injuries that have hindered Robert Saleh's group. Arguably the most impressive aspect of the defense's strong start has been the ability to create pass rush despite the torn ACL suffered by Nick Bosa and the continued absence of Dee Ford.
Some of San Francisco's success has come as a result of the willingness of Saleh to blitz more often. According to Pro Football Reference, the 49ers are blitzing on 34.2 percent of snaps this season, having blitzed just 20.9 percent of the time in 2019.
Fred Warner, in addition to being a premier coverage linebacker, does an excellent job on blitzes while slot corner K'Waun Williams, who was this week placed on injured reserve with a knee sprain, also provides significant value in that area of the game.
However, the 49ers' shrewd approach to free agency is a large reason why the San Francisco defensive front has continued to disrupt the passing game, with Kerry Hyder Jr. playing an extensive role while Dion Jordan has shone since being promoted from the practice squad.
In Week 5, the Niners face a Miami Dolphins offensive line that will be without a key piece on Sunday.
Miami has given up just six sacks of Ryan Fitzpatrick this season and ranks 11th in Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate but placed rookie left tackle Austin Jackson on injured reserve with a foot injury. Julien Davenport could step up to fill the void or the Dolphins could switch starting right tackle Jesse Davis to the other side of the formation.
Either way, the reshuffle in the trenches for Miami gives Hyder and Jordan the opportunity to take advantage of a break in the Dolphins' O-Line continuity and ensure Fitzpatrick and top wideout DeVante Parker cannot prosper against a secondary missing its top three cornerbacks.
Here in the latest Niner in Focus, we examine the play of Hyder and Jordan and their potential influence in getting the 49ers to 3-2 with a win over Miami.
Kerry Hyder Jr.
Hyder signed with the 49ers in the offseason having previously worked with San Francisco defensive line coach Kris Kocurek during his time with the Detroit Lions. Their familiarity has paid huge dividends, with Hyder posting 2.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits through four games.
Hand usage has been pivotal to Hyder's success, as he has displayed a versatile repertoire of pass-rush moves and the power in his hands to win against inexperienced but talented rookies like Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas, while his quickness has enabled Hyder to create disruption on stunts to the inside.
Jordan has not been as consistent, but his flashes have suggested he can make a regular impact on passing downs.
Jordan was billed as a fill-in for Ford as the Niners' speed rusher. He evidently does not possess the same level of burst as a healthy Ford, however, Jordan keeps his feet moving and excels at converting speed to power.
The former third overall pick of the Dolphins, Jordan demonstrated encouraging bend in the Week 3 win over the New York Giants and showcased his threat working to the inside last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
When both Hyder and Jordan generate push, it can produce plays akin to Hyder's sack of Daniel Jones in Week 3.
Those are the kind of plays Hyder and Jordan should have the chance to make against the Dolphins and a quarterback in Fitzpatrick who is not as mobile as the likes of Jones and Carson Wentz.
San Francisco is lacking both of its premier edge rushers, yet Hyder and Jordan have proven they have the talent to consistently affect the passing game and that is what they must do to ensure the 49ers beat the Dolphins in the manner most expect them to in Week 5.
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