49ers Sign Ex-Colts Pass Rusher After Breakout Season: Report

Kemoko Turay

Getty Kemoko Turay pursues the quarterback while with the Indianapolis Colts.

One of the strongest groups on the San Francisco 49ers roster appears to be getting even better with the team’s latest move in free agency.

The 49ers have made a knack this offseason of signing former Indianapolis Colts players during the free agency period. First, San Francisco and general manager John Lynch brought in ex-Colts safety and special teams ace George Odum, then the 49ers signed former Indianapolis and Tennessee Titans WR Marcus Johnson earlier this month.

Now, San Francisco is bringing in a new pass rusher in the form of outside linebacker/defensive end Kemoko Turay. NFL media insider Mike Garafolo reported that the agency representing Turay informed him of the move on April 14.

“#49ers have agreed to a one-year deal with DL Kemoko Turay, per his agents at @SPORTSTARSNYC,” Garafolo Tweeted. “Former second-round pick coming off a career-high 5.5 sacks last season with the #Colts.”

San Francisco boasts a deep defensive line spearheaded by players like Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa, but what’s most exciting about Turay is what he could do under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek in 2022.

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Turay Coming Off High Note with Colts

As Garafolo mentioned, Turay had a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2021. That’s not exactly a monster season, but it’s encouraging to see the pass rusher on the upswing rather than the downswing.

Turay attended Rutgers in college, where his 14.5 career sacks and impressive 6’5″ and 248-pound frame attracted NFL attention. The Colts drafted Turay in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft, and he put up four sacks in his first year according to Pro Football Reference.

However, a broken ankle sidelined him for much of the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Over those two years, he tallied just 2.5 sacks and appeared in just 11 total games.

Why his 5.5 sacks in 2021 is so impressive is the amount of snaps he hit that number with. PFR states that he only played 27% of defensive snaps (224 snaps) of the 13 games he hit the field, which means he was averaging a sack once every 40.7 snaps.

To put it in perspective, Turay was averaging 86 snaps per sack in his three previous seasons. To further stress how impressive that sack count is, Bosa is the 49ers’ top pass rusher and his career snaps-to-sack is 68.5.

49ers DL Coach Gets Another Weapon

Since his arrival in 2019, Kocurek and the 49ers have become masters of engineering sacks from backup players and maximizing output. Kocurek is part of the reason why Bosa has been as good as he is, but he may bring more value when you look at the backups.

Samson Ebukam and Arden Key, both considered secondary edge rushers in 2021, combined for 11 sacks behind Bosa. Having effective pass rushing means not depending solely on a team’s stars, and Kocurek is exceptional at racking up sacks with his depth.

Just ask Kerry Hyder Jr. The 30-year-old defender has returned to the 49ers after a year with the Seattle Seahawks, where he only put up 1.5 sacks after 8.5 sacks with San Francisco and Kocurek in 2021. The 2020 season marked the second time Hyder excelled with Kocurek, as the pair worked together in Hyder’s only other notable season, when he put up eight sacks with the Detroit Lions in 2016.

Kocurek’s track record speaks for itself, and after seeing what Turay did as a backup last year with the Colts, 49ers fans ought to be excited by the prospect of the 26-year-old joining the team.

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