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NFL Network analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Brian Baldinger says there’s one need more than any other that the 49ers need to fill in order to make the postseason in 2018, and that’s a pass rusher.

Baldinger gave his view on the subject in an in-depth video posted to Twitter last week.

“The 49ers need an elite pass rusher,” Baldinger said. “The 49ers need a war daddy, somebody that needs two blockers to defend.”

Baldinger complemented that opinion by breaking down film of the 49ers-Jaguars game, in which he pointed out moments where Blake Bortles had too much time to throw.

“When the 49ers have been great, they’ve had great pass rushers — Fred Dean, Charles Haley, Aldon Smith,” Baldinger said. “Last year, it was a weakness for them. They tried to get home with just four, get to the quarterback rushing four. They just weren’t very good at it last year. And even right now, nobody is winning a one-on-one.”

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke towards the end of the season about what improving the pass rush would do for the defense.
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“We get to third down very, very easily,” Saleh said, per 49ers.com. “We’ve built leads here over the second half of the year. Now we need to as a defense, we need to learn how to close. We need to learn how to close the door on third-and-12 where there is zero chance an offense can get a first down. Two-minute situations where even if we’re rushing four and you’re trying to bleed the clock, but we’re still capable of getting off the field because the edge rush and the corners are just straight lock down. It would be a huge domino effect because you’re adding the element of closing the door on offenses.”

Expect the 49ers to address the pass rushing issue sometime this offseason, whether it’s in the draft or free agency (or both). It’s only a matter of when.

Joe Staley will make his sixth Pro Bowl appearance on Sunday, joining teammate Kyle Juszczyk at the game in Orlando. Staley made the Pro Bowl each year from 2011-15.

Pro Bowlers from the Super Bowl squads, the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, do not play in the annual all-star event. That means Eagles tackle Lane Johnson will not take part. Neither will Dallas Cowboys’ tackle Tyron Smith, who is dealing with an injury. According to the 49ers, Staley officially is taking Smith’s spot.

Staley, who is the longest-tenured 49er, recently completed his 11th season. He missed one start with a broken orbital bone and, like many of his teammates, was particularly good in the team’s last five games, all victories.

Staley, who will be 34 for the start of next season, has said he wants to continue to play. He’s missed just four starts in the last seven seasons and is under contract — at below-market salaries of $4.8 million in base pay — through the 2019 season.

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