Can Jeremiah Attaochu Fix the 49ers Sack Problem?

Football was going well for pass rusher Jeremiah Attaochu, who left Georgia Tech with the most sacks in school history after being selected in the second round of the 2014 Draft by the Chargers, and emerged as an efficient starter by his second NFL season in 2015.

And as most players experience at one point in their pro-career, Attaochu had faced the injury bug early on in his career.

In 2016, he was sidelined for a larger part of the season with a broken foot. In 2017, he was hardly used, serving as a reserve on the depth chart.

After Joey Bosa was drafted by the Chargers with the number-three selection in the 2016 NFL draft, he quickly supplanted Attaochu with his play in both minicamps and preseason. Attaochu was placed behind Bosa and Pro Bowl defensive end Melvin Ingram on the depth chart.

On March 15, 2o18, Attaochu agreed to a one-year $3 million contract with the 49ers.

Now, after just turning 25 on January 17th, Attaochu hopes to get back to harassing quarterbacks on the field.

As for the 49ers, Attaochu was the only new pass-rushing addition made by the organization this offseason by a team that finished tied 26th in sacks in the NFL.

When asked about Attaochu’s signing in a press release, general manager John Lynch said, “Jeremiah has been quite disruptive during his career despite his limited opportunities playing behind some top tier defensive ends,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a press release. “He is a wonderful fit for our scheme and our locker room. We expect Jeremiah to be productive on defense, while also providing us an exceptional player on special teams. He’s another guy who fits the mold of a 49er.”

Why not keep a veteran in Elvis Dumervil, 34, instead of signing the 25-year-old Attaochu? Although the 49ers defensive line does not currently have a lineman that has over 10 sacks in his pro career, Attaochu can prove to be a young low-risk wonder within the 49ers defensive line.

It remains a question as to why the 49ers let go of the promising veteran in Elvis Dumervil in times of rebuild, but the 49ers bit on the gamble that Attaochu can become a large contributor to what they have termed a by-committee approach to creating pressure.

On June 12th, 2018, head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about the early returns on the one-year signing of defensive end Attaochu.

“He’s gotten better each day and that’s to me a sign that (he’s) legit,” Shanahan said. “The last few OTAs were so much better than the first few OTAs. I think the more he gets comfortable, the more he works … He’s got the ability to do it and he’s going to be a candidate to help us in training camp.”

If Attaochu’s performance in the offseason program translates to the field and onto the defense’s current depth chart, then Attaochu will be the team’s top pass rusher.

Unlike in San Diego, he will have a consistent opportunity to harass opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks here in San Francisco.

Attaochu’s play may not only improve the sack problem but give Deforest Buckner the supplemental edge he needs to avoid being double-teamed, and rush the edge in those one-on-one situations that he has dominated over the course of both his college and pro careers.

Attaochu is well aware that most of the fans and experts still see the 49ers’ defensive line as a large detriment to the overall roster. But he remains confident in his group’s play for the upcoming 2018 NFL Season.

“We have the potential to go out there and get the job done,” Attaochu said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. When I step on the field, I know that I’ve got what it takes to get it done, and I know my teammates have what it takes to get it done.”

There are no realistic expectations that the signing of an injury-prone defensive end in Attaochu will completely fix the 49ers’ sack problem. Instead, it will take a team effort with the instruction of defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina, along with the newly-hired pass-rush specialist Chris Kiffin from Florida Atlantic University, to give the lackluster unit a polished form, capable of attacking the strongest offensive lines of the NFL.


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