49ers defensive front poised for big season

The 49ers have made focusing on the defensive front a core philosophy since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over in 2017. This philosophy led San Francisco to make improving along defensive line for 2023 their top priority during free agency.

Let’s look at the key additions that are set to make a huge impact.

The 49ers made Javon Hargrave their splash signing of free agency. A talented defensive tackle. Hargrave has made a name for himself in the league with his impressive skill set and relentless work ethic. Before joining the 49ers, Hargrave played the last three seasons in Philadelphia where he accumulated 23 sacks, 42 quarterback hits, and 24 tackles for loss.

Hargrave brings a unique combination of power, quickness, and technique to the 49ers’ defensive line.

As a pass rusher, Hargrave is known for his ability to collapse the pocket and disrupt the quarterback’s rhythm. His quick first step and powerful bull rush make him a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen.

Hargrave stands out against the run as well. He excels at clogging up running lanes and making plays in the backfield. His strength and leverage allow him to shed blocks and make tackles for loss.

Another new addition to the starting defensive line this season will be Drake Jackson. Jackson had an impressive rookie season, showcasing his raw talent and potential as a dynamic edge rusher. He racked up 3 sacks, 14 tackles including three for loss, and a big interception against Las Vegas while his presence felt on the field.

The area of concern for Jackson last season was his conditioning. The rookie pass rusher hit a wall late in the season and he was left off the active roster for the postseason. To unlock his full potential, Jackson has reportedly been working on his strength and conditioning, which will help him become more explosive off the line and improve his overall durability.

In addition to Hargrave, the 49ers added Clelin Ferrell in free agency and Robert Beal Jr. through the draft along with 2022 draft pick Kalia Davis. Davis missed all last season due to a knee injury suffered during his final year at UCF and the defensive tackle will be looking to make the final roster.

That brings us to the returning stars who have been the backbone of the 49ers’ defensive line.

Leading the way for San Francisco is Nick Bosa. Bosa is coming off a season which saw him named First Team All-Pro for the first time in his career. He finished last year with 18.5 sacks, 48 quarterback hits, 19 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles.

Another key returning piece is Arik Armstead. Armstead is coming off a 2022 season which saw him miss 8 games due to injury and not record a sack during the regular season. The lack of sacks didn’t stop Armstead from making his presence felt. His pressure on opposing quarterbacks directly led to a pair of interceptions by Jimmie Ward. If he can stay healthy this season, the combination Armstead and Hargrave inside will be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.

The 49ers defensive line also returns several other veterans including Kerry Hyder, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, and T.Y. McGill.

San Francisco defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has been instrumental in implementing new schemes and techniques that maximize the potential of each player.

The 49ers emphasis on aggressive, attacking play has allowed their defensive line to become one of the most feared units in the league.

With a stronger pass rush, the 49ers’ secondary will benefit from increased pressure on opposing quarterbacks, leading to more hurried throws and potential interceptions.

The improved run defense will force opponents to become more one-dimensional, allowing the 49ers’ defense to focus on shutting down the passing game.

A dominant defensive line also has a ripple effect on the entire team, as it can create more opportunities for the offense by generating turnovers and providing better field position.

Last season the 49ers led the NFL in starting field position on both sides of the ball. San Francisco’s 30 forced turnovers playing a pivotal role in a drastic turnaround from the prior year when the team was near the bottom of the league in all three categories.

This article has 11 Comments

  1. Oh, man! I’m looking forward to next season. As long as the injury bug doesn’t lousy tear us down, the 49ers look great on paper and on the field. We just need Kinlaw and Drake to step it up. I’m intrigued by Sam Darnold. You have to realize that Sam is better than he seems because he was with two teams that didn’t have much talent. the 49ers have a lot more talent for him to work with. I also would love to see Trey Lance in action. I can’t wait to see the Grave Digger in action.

  2. I hope you are right. Our d-line depth is no longer as good however, and nobody talks about the fact that Hargrave is 30 years old. Usually you only give big contracts to players that are 27 or less. Defensive linemen can have huge dropoffs after age 30. I hope he is an exception and can maintain his elevated play.

  3. What you say is true. But it looks like Javon Hargrave has kept himself in good physical shape. Plus he will have help from Nick Bosa and Drake Jackson. maybe Javon kinlaw as well to take some pressure off of him. Our line is going to be great this year, too.

  4. Jack,
    The 49ers renegotiated CMC giving themselves about 12 mill in cap space. Do you think they did that to sign a FA edge player? If so who do you think they may sign? If not what do you think they created that cap space for? As to the 9ers having the best starting field position last year, thats only going to get better with Moody kicking off this year. By the last third of last season and the playoffs teams were starting drives after TDs near the 40.
    Is anyone else watching the SF Giants first home grown super star since Mad Bum, Casey Schmitt.

    1. The kid had a nice game OldCoach- let’s hope that his friends and family show up well in SD for many years.

      Schedule comes out TH- I assume we’ll get Philly early, and I am fine with that as I think Darnold is going to beat out Lance and his experience will help.

    2. OC, It all depends on how much the 49ers believe in Drake Jackson. If they feel good there, I don’t see them going after a guy like Ngakoue. Yes, he gets sacks but it takes a large number snaps to get there and he’s not good against the run.

  5. I believe or defense is going to be better in that scary to say especially with her new coach that defensive mind he has. Or defense will be stronger and better than it was last year

  6. Has there been any indication if the 49ers plan to move Clellin Ferrell to the interior d line? Even coming out of college I didn’t think he had the bend or natural athleticism needed as a DE. I think he could be fantastic in the interior, especially on passing downs.

    1. Pat,
      Ferrell is a very good run defender at DE. He does an excellent job at setting the edge. I imagine we will be seeing a lot of Ferrell at DE on 1st and 2nd downs. He will be playing both sides giving Bosa much needed rest. What they do with him on passing downs will be interesting. I’m hoping we will be seeing quite a bit of K. Davis in a rotation of DTs.

      1. Yeah, I have heard that Ferrell is good in those aspects. I’m thinking in the 49ers division with Smith and Murray that you need more athletic DEs. I’m hoping Drake Jackson turns into a solid DE and Ferrell is a good rotational player with capability to play DE and then drop down on passing downs to spell Hargrave and Armstead. That’s the makings of a hell of a D-line rotation. Would be great if Ferrell has that flexibility. I don’t think Jackson has that type of positional flexibility.

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