The San Francisco 49ers are now one of the few NFL teams that have parted ways with two former first rounders in a span of 24 hours.
First, nickelback Darqueze Dennard was the first to go — being released on Monday, August 15 as the 49ers began their path to an 85-man roster. Dennard was once the No. 24 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft and his departure was called “a bit of a surprise’ move by ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner. A likely reason is the sudden emergence of Samuel Womack following his two interception evening from Friday against the Green Bay Packers.
But on Tuesday afternoon, August 16 and right before the designated deadline by the league to reach the 85-player limit, another past first rounder joined Dennard in parting ways with the 49ers…and a trio of analysts who frequented 49er training camp sessions detailed some telling reasons behind the motive.
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Why DL Was Released
Officially announced at 1 p.m. Pacific, the 49ers released Robert Nkemdiche.
The decision is somewhat of a stunner considering that the 49ers signed the former 29th overall selection of the 2016 NFL Draft around the start of their training camp. But three analysts took to Twitter to share what they saw out of the 6-foot-4, 294-pounder who was supposed to be plugged inside.
Kyle Posey of Niners Nation of SB Nation caught head coach Kyle Shanahan losing his cool more than once during practice toward Nkemdiche.
“Kyle Shanahan yelled at Nkemdiche twice during the first week of camp for taking his teammates to the ground on a tackle. That sealed his fate,” Posey tweeted.
Posey wasn’t the only one who caught glimpses of the former Ole Miss star. Dieter Kurtenbach of KNBR radio in the Bay Area said Nkemdiche had “flashy” plays but that included some that were described as “woeful.”
“Zero knock with cutting Nkemdiche. He made some seriously flashy plays in camp of both the good and woeful variety. As of late, it’s been far more of the latter. Honestly don’t know if he ever had a ‘meh’ rep,” Kurtenbach tweeted.
One more analyst, Rohan Chakravarthi of 49ers Web Zone, believed that a 49ers defensive line room that nearly topped 20 players made it difficult for Nkemdiche to fish through the depth.
“[Nkemdiche] Was working towards a potential roster spot early in camp, but several others started playing both on the edge and the inside, losing him reps,” Chakravarthi posted. “Loud voice for sure. Now, the 49ers are at 85 on the roster.”
Before the 49ers, Nkemdiche was a division rival of S.F. with past stints with the Arizona Cardinals (the team that drafted him) and the Seattle Seahawks last season. Nkemdiche played in 25 snaps versus the Packers in the 49ers’ preseason opener according to Pro Football Focus.
He will now be searching for his fifth NFL stop and his fourth since the 2019 season.
Who Could Take Advantage Now?
Not only does Nkemdiche’s departure create a new vacancy in the Bay Area, but Tomasi Laulile was one of the other 49ers released before the roster cut off deadline.
This now means someone inside could trek up.
During the win over the Packers, newly added Akeem Spence played in 29 snaps — the most among interior defenders. Spence and Nkemdiche split time at the left defensive tackle spot.
There is still a veteran option, though, in the form of Kevin Givens, who was in on 14 plays.
The right side is looking more in solid hands with a healthier and quicker Javon Kinlaw, who had 14 snaps. Undrafted rookie Kevin Atkins out of Fresno State was the one who took the most action at DRT with 23 plays. He’s also the last of the Bulldog representatives left on the 49ers roster after wide receiver KeeSean Johnson and fullback Josh Hokit were waived.
There’s also sixth rounder Kalia Davis as a future plug in, who is still nursing a torn ACL from his final college season at Central Florida. Once he’s cleared, there will be more speed and depth inside.