- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Four young NFC West outside pass-rushers have combined for 18 sacks through five games.
A look at their progress:
Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams (6.0 sacks): A three-sack game against Arizona on Thursday night doubled Quinn's total for the season. The Rams had nine sacks in the game overall. Quinn and fellow defensive end Chris Long dominated the Cardinals' offensive tackles. This was a dream situation was a pure pass-rusher such as Quinn. Arizona posed no threat in the run game. The Cardinals also fell behind. That combination played to Quinn's strengths. He'll face a much different, far more formidable challenge against Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long in Week 6.
Aldon Smith, San Francisco (4.5): Smith did not get the 1.5 sacks he needed to break Reggie White's sack-era record for fewest career games to 20. He did deliver one particularly hard hit to Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick just after Fitzpatrick delivered the ball. Smith also tackled Bills receiver Stevie Johnson following a reception.
Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks (4.5): Irvin collected two sacks while playing 20 snaps against Carolina. His second sack forced a turnover, allowing the Seahawks to run out the clock on their 16-12 victory. Irvin appears increasingly comfortable as he gains experience. He is the only non-starter of the four listed here. Smith was also a situational player as a rookie. He collected 14 sacks in 2011. Irvin is now on pace for that many.
Sam Acho, Arizona Cardinals (3.0): The Cardinals generate quite a bit of their pressure from the inside. They blitz more frequently than most teams, opening up chances for others. Inside linebacker Daryl Washington has five sacks. Acho tackled Philadelphia's Michael Vick and forced a fumble, which teammate Dan Williams recovered. That play did not count as a sack, but the turnover was important as Philadelphia was driving in Cardinals territory while trying to cut into a 10-0 Arizona lead.
While we're discussing pressure, I've put together a chart from ESPN Stats & Information showing how frequently NFC West teams and their opponents used five or more pass-rushers in Week 5. The 49ers never sent more than four against Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has taken only four sacks all season and gets the ball out quickly.
2012 NFL Week 5: Percent Rushing 5+ Defenders