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49ers defense is young and exciting, but missing key element

The Arizona Cardinals take on the San Francisco 49ers and David Fucillo looked at the 49ers defense with us.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have got off to an 0-3 start on the season, yet there is still optimism throughout the fanbase.

The reason is because the new regime led by John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan has renewed the faith in the organization.

Another reason for the optimism is that they see signs of getting back to being a good, maybe even great defense.

For a look at the 49ers, I talked with David Fucillo of Niners Nation about their defense.

Here is what he had to say:

2. The 49ers look like they are getting close to being a very good to maybe great defense again... Where are they weakest right now and how far off do you think they are?

The biggest weakness is in the pass rush. The team has struggled to find a serious long-term cornerstone pass rusher. They have moved Arik Armstead to the edge LEO position in their base 4-3, and then rotate Elvis Dumervil and Aaron Lynch when they move into the nickel. DeForest Buckner leads all NFL interior defensive linemen in quarterback pressures, but he has been unable to close the deal on sacks. The 49ers are just not closing the deal like they need to to force longer down and distance situations.

Part of this is due to players adjusting to a new scheme. I think we can see some improvement. Additionally, Elvis Dumervil has been solid in limited work, but the 49ers have struggled on first and second down. That's a second weakness, as the 49ers defense has struggled to get off the field with consistency. They have extensive rotations along the line, and still have some of the highest snap totals for their starters. They need to improve with first and second down consistency.

One key will be getting Reuben Foster and Eric Reid back from injury. But really, this is a rebuilding year. I am happy we are seeing improvements, but I think we see the unit take a real step forward next year with another draft class. In particular, it will depend on how the 49ers address the pass rush in the draft. If they don't draft a quarterback high next spring, I could see pass rusher being high on their need list.