SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Coverage of the San Francisco 49ers

Improving Defensive Line May Help 49ers More Than Getting Revis

Niners' big dip in pass coverage may be more attributable to Justin Smith's injury, and the cost of acquiring Revis may be too steep

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Safety Dashon Goldson may or may not be part of the 49ers secondary in 2013. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

    The 49ers want, and need, to improve their pass defense.

    Through the playoffs and Super Bowl, San Francisco’s defense against the pass was a weakness that nearly cost it the NFC Championship Game and was costly in the Super Bowl loss to the Ravens.

    But whether the 49ers’ desire to improve means they are interested in Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is questionable.

    Chris Mortensen of ESPN this week reported a source within the 49ers organization says the interest in trading for Revis is “.001 on a scale of 1-10” because of a number of factors, including his salary, the cost in draft picks and his condition following the All-Pro cornerback’s ACL injury last season.

    Whether Revis is the most important missing ingredient the Niners need to improve their pass defense, however, is debatable.

    Of course, if Revis is healthy again, he would be outstanding. He ranks among the best corners in the league, and many rank him No. 1. Putting him in the Niners’ secondary would be an improvement.

    After all, San Francisco was burned for 940 passing yards and eight passing TDs in three postseason games, a huge wound that needs healing. It was a big departure from the team’s regular-season numbers, in which the 49ers were the league’s fourth-ranked pass defense and gave up just 200.2 yards per game.

    But many observers point to the fact that the biggest culprit to the 49ers pass defense was the huge dropoff in the pass rush after Justin Smith was injured in the victory over New England in December.

    Once Smith was hurt, the defense across the board suffered. Aldon Smith no longer was able to get to the quarterback, sacks went down and, with more time, opposing quarterbacks picked apart the secondary in a way they hadn’t been able to do in 2011 and early in 2012.

    Though the 49ers secondary will likely be different in 2013, with the possibility of a new safety to replace Dashon Goldson (if he’s allowed to leave in free agency) and perhaps the drafting or acquisition of cornerback help, getting Justin Smith back healthy and adding new talent across the defensive line this offseason may be the key to restoring order in the secondary.

    To Matt Barrows, who covers the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee, improving the pass rush is the biggest step needed.

    “Though Week 14, the 49ers had 35 sacks, an average of 2.5 per game,” he wrote. “After that, they averaged 1.4 sacks per game. Week 14, of course, is when defensive end Justin Smith tore his triceps tendon. He didn’t have any sacks in the playoffs and neither did linemate Aldon Smith.

    “Could the 49ers secondary be improved? Of course. Any unit could. But the pass rush seems to be the bigger issue this offseason.”

    So, bringing Revis Island to San Francisco might be nice, but it also might not be the cure-all. And for the price of $6 million in 2013 and a draft pick or two for a one-year rental, it may not even have as big an impact as restocking the defensive line in the draft and free agency.