This 49ers defensive player will breakout in 2023

Coming off a season that saw them lead the league in points allowed, the 49ers defense is undergoing a transition in 2023.

Steve Wilks will replace DeMeco Ryans as defensive coordinator. Ryans used two strong seasons to earn the head coach role for the Houston Texans

In addition to Ryans, the 49ers defense lost 11.5 sacks from last year with the departures of Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, and Jordan Willis.

To make up for the losses, San Francisco made a splash signing with the addition of Javon Hargrave. Hargrave gives the 49ers defensive line a strong pass rushing threat up the middle. Over the last three years in Philadelphia the veteran pass rusher averaged just under eight sacks each season.

San Francisco didn’t stop there. The 49ers also added Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant through free agency. The two veterans will be fighting for a role in the 49ers rotation at defensive end.

The position San Francisco did not look to add a player was at defensive end opposite Nick Bosa.

Enter Drake Jackson.

Jackson was selected near the end of the second round in last year’s NFL draft. The rookie defensive end finished with three sacks and a key interception late against Las Vegas. The comeback win over the Raiders would be the last action Jackson would see during his rookie campaign.

According to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, Jackson hit the rookie wall.

During the first week of OTA’s for the 49ers it was evident Jackson had worked hard to add strength. Despite the added bulk, Jackson showcased the same quickness off the ball and ability to turn the corner which caught San Francisco’s attention the year prior.

Look for Jackson to follow the path laid out by former USC teammate Talanoa Hufanga and become the 49ers defensive breakout star in 2023.

Jackson’s sacks during his rookie season were the result of cleaning up pressure generated by others. This is where the addition of Hargrave and a healthy Arik Armstead come in. With those two and Nick Bosa creating chaos in the backfield there should be ample opportunity for Jackson to finish it off.

This article has 15 Comments

  1. Great update. Thanks Jack. Now could you start a new poll and replace the one that’s been here
    since Maiocco hosted the site?

  2. The losses of Ebukam, Omenihu, and Willis cannot be overstated. They accounted for about 1300 productive defensive snaps an another 200 on special teams. And I am sure some of that was giving Bosa a rest. Jackson will be given first shot and it really needs to work. Ferrell, Hyder, and Beal need to produce productive snaps. The strength of this team has been getting pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz very much. If that changes, I would hope it is by choice, not out of necessity

  3. I look forward to seeing how much he has improved this year. If he does well and with the addition of Hargrove, the Niners pass rushing should he outstanding.

    1. If they can stay healthy and Jackson plays as good as he looks the pass rush could be as good as it was in early 19. You put that together with Wilk’s propensity to use the zone blitz this years 9ers could have the same sack #s as last years Eagles. Now if the O line play can improve and the QB play return to last years level this could finally be SB #6.

  4. The potential for a 49ers outstanding Defense has all the pieces on the roster.
    But the term potential carries more promise than guarantee.

    If Jackson can have a breakout year the 49ers defense can be a scary force. Also, speaking of potential, if (IF, another word that seems related to potential) Kinlaw can finally be the player that the 49ers envisioned when they drafted him, the 49ers could use him in certain packages that would wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
    As I said, the pieces are already on the team. Now it’s on them.

    1. AES,
      I think it is more likely that K. Davis explodes on the scene than Kinlaw finally reaches his potential. I think he lost weight this off season in an attempt to stay healthy but I believe he will be too light to have an impact at DT.

      1. I would love to see Kalia Davis have a great camp. If he can perform anything close to his college highlight videos, he will be a nice piece on an already great defense.
        I’m starting to get excited about the upcoming training camp.

    2. I’m looking forward to seeing how Kinlaw does. The Niners obviously had high hopes for him but he has been injured. If he is truly healed, he could be another force on the interior.

  5. Jack
    Once again, I enjoyed reading your comments.
    I would only add, that my biggest concern is injuries that have plagued the 9ers.
    As for Jackson as a starter: IMO, he only has to do his job since Clelin Ferrell is capable of starting if he tires and will get ~40% of the snaps to keep Jackson fresh.
    I would also ask you to keep us posted on three players. RT McKivitz, Jimmy Wards replacement at NB, Isaiah Oliver and DT Kalia Davis. Thanks Jack….Keep up the good work.

  6. I would love to see Kalia Davis have a great camp. If he can perform anything close to his college highlight videos, he will be a nice piece on an already great defense.
    I’m starting to get excited about the upcoming training camp.

  7. I’m curious about Javon Kinlaw, Javon Hargrave, and Drake Jackson. Our defense is going to be great again. I hope that one undrafted rb makes the roster. What’s his name? khalan, I think? Correct me if I have his name wrong. I saw highlights of him and he looked fantastic! It’s amazing he wasn’t drafted.

    1. Capt,
      His last name is Laborn. He was thrown off the team at Fla. St, after his redshirt Soph year for breaking team rules. He did not play football for the next two years but interestingly he did continue to attend Fla. St. full time for the next two years and earn his B.A. He then transferred to Marshall played two more years while earning his Masters degree. He looks very good to me but he did have the rep for putting the ball on the ground and we all know KS won’t play a RB if he doesn’t fully trust him to block and hold onto the ball.

  8. I think this is highly depends on what you think he is or can be. I have major doubts about Drake due to what he has shown so far.

    He has rarely won to the outside in college or the pros for all the burst and bend he has. Given that Hargreaves and Armstead will be the primary interior rushers with the exception of some games, and the team actually needs Drake to win around the edge.

    Don’t get me wrong, hustle sacks are great but you can get that from the Hyders of the world.

    Believe it or not I actually have more hope for Beal unlocking the pass rush.

    All that said he’s been drawing rave reviews in camp which is promising and if he shows the ability to win around the edge I’ll quickly change my tune.

    1. I believe that Jackson can find success. His biggest hurdle will be to build stamina and consistency throughout the season.
      He showed some flashes early on last year before running out of gas.

      I’m looking forward to watching him become the player that the 49ers envisioned when they drafted him. Hopefully, the extra strength and one year experience under his belt will work in his favor.

      Beal could be a nice find for the 49ers, but he has only shown some athleticism similar to what Drake showed last year around this time. And Beal was surrounded by a great cast players in college, that may have allowed him to have success.
      We’ll see how it pans out in the next few months

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