The 49ers have built their very good defense from front to back. Heavy investment in the defensive line was key in their Super Bowl run in 2019, and their trip to the NFC championship game a season ago. Now going into 2022 their D-line ranks among the NFL’s elite once again according to Pro Football Focus.
San Francisco lands at No. 6 in PFF’s defensive line rankings, putting them in the ‘Elite’ tier. They’re behind the Buccaneers, Steelers, Packers, Commanders and Rams. Nick Bosa is certainly the star for the 49ers, but it’s their depth that earned them their place in the top tier. Via PFF:
The 49ers have one of the deeper edge rotations in the league with Samson Ebukam, Drake Jackson, Charles Omenihu, Kerry Hyder and Kemoko Turay all competing for snaps on the edge. Nick Bosa will not be in that competition coming off a 2021 season where he ranked seventh at the position in PFF grade, as he’s one of the best all-around edge defenders in the NFL.
Arik Armstead is expected to move back to a primarily interior role, where he’s been better as a pass rusher than run defender over the last four seasons.
With Javon Kinlaw yet to establish himself as an above-average starter on the interior, defensive tackle stands out as the one potential weak point of this unit.
Depth on the edge was key for San Francisco in 2019 when their relentless pass rush wreaked havoc for four quarters against tired offensive lines. That depth took a hit with Dee Ford’s injury, but it improved last year as the season went on and some rotation players settled in.
This year could see a slew of edge defenders step up. Ebukam came on strong to close last year and could be in for a breakout season in 2022. Rookie DE Jackson has all the tools to be a star and is already impressing his teammates. Hyder is back with the team after leading the club in sacks in 2020. Omenihu is one of the players who was more effective later in the year following a mid-season trade, and Turay is a potential breakout candidate after a handful of undrwhelming years with the Colts.
On the inside Armstead played the best football of his career down the stretch last season. If he carries that over and Kinlaw can be healthy for a full year, San Francisco could quickly garner attention as the NFL’s No. 1 defensive line.