49ers Gunning for Big Second Half

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A New Bag of Tricks for Harbaugh and his Staff

Oct 13, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams punter

Johnny Hekker

(6) punts the ball under pressure from San Francisco 49ers strong safety

Jimmie Ward

(25) during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Personally, I’m salivating at the options this team will have in the second half.

Consider the defense for a second: The 49ers currently rank 2nd in the NFL in total yards allowed per game at 306.0 Their weaknesses have been on third down and in the red zone.

Usually, defenses perform better as they back up against their goal line, but without a pass-rush, there’s little this team can do.

Smith’s addition will drastically improve the red zone defense. For the first time in Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching tenure (Vic Fangio’s as well), the 49ers will have three top-notch pass-rushing outside linebackers in Lynch, Smith and Ahmad Brooks. This allows Fangio – who is not a renowned blitzer – to generate a pass-rush with just four players.

It’s a pick-your-poison scenario for offenses. Double team Justin Smith with this pass-rush and you’re offering your quarterback up for the slaughter.

And the ripple effect generated by a quality pass-rush will be felt throughout the defense.

Ward has struggled this season at cornerback. If he retains that role when the secondary reaches full health, it’s quite possible he has an excellent second half.

More pressure up front equals less time for the opposing quarterback, making Ward‘s job that much easier. Less time in coverage will allow him to use his physicality at the line. He has ball hawking skills, and I expect him to place his hands on the pigskin often in the second half as the pass-rush aids his growth.

And finally, the offense. The 49ers are searching for an identity right now; they throw as much as they run, which is an obvious shift from the run-heavy teams of the recent past.

For me, it all relies on one person: Vernon Davis.

Davis has done nothing for the Niners this season following a 13 touchdown campaign in 2013.

Reports are that he looked excellent in practice this week, and that the bye week was exactly what his body needed. When he is playing well, the 49ers are a lubricated machine on offense. He’s the team’s number one deep threat and is also a key blocker for Frank Gore and Hyde.

With a healthy Davis, rhythm will return to the offense, an identity will be found, and the 49ers will rumble to an 11-5 record and a division title.