Someone, or several, on the San Francisco 49ers will use 2022 training camp to fuel up for a potential breakout 2022 campaign — one that sees their personal stats change and increase.
And one individual has already been given this bold prediction by a Bay Area columnist: He could be finally due for a career-best season in his return to the ‘Niners.
Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area helped unveil a list of potential breakout candidates on Tuesday, July 5. The list went with nine total, but four representing arguably the strength of the 49ers the defensive line.
Already, this deep unit is spearheaded by fourth-year defender Nick Bosa — who earned the No. 3 ranking by ESPN on Tuesday among NFL edge rushers. But someone has to take pressure off Bosa when there are multiple blockers tangling with him in the trenches.
In tracing back to last season, here’s how the Bosa effect worked: Arden Key put together a career-high in sacks and emerged as the team’s second-best pass rusher. Now, there’s one defender in a near-similar scenario that Key faced who looks like he’s due to become the one who breaks out in the S.F. trenches.
And Chan believes that it won’t just be Bosa who benefits this defender, but also coaching.
Samson Ebukam Due for Breakout
Samson Ebukam is being predicted to finally shed past the 4.5 sacks he’s hit the last three seasons — and labeled as a 49er with the potential to have a career year.
Chan believes the combination of Bosa, a long defender next to him like Charles Omenihu and the coaching of Kris Kocurek points to changes in the 27-year-old Ebukam’s production.
“Another pass rusher who will benefit from a second season under Kocurek is Samson Ebukam. The sixth-year lineman recorded 4.5 sacks for a third season in a row for the 49ers and like Omenihu, will benefit from playing along a very talented line,” Chan predicted.
She then made one more call on how Ebukam’s 2022 campaign could go.
“With attention constantly on Bosa, Ebukam could have his best season yet, even if only used on a rotational basis,” Chan wrote.
Ebukam Has Shown Signs of Spark
Ebukam is obviously not considered the face of the 49ers’ defensive line. And he’s been given the “rotational piece” moniker.
However, he has given the 49ers glimpses of spark when called upon. In the last eight games, Ebukam caught fire and exploded like a Fourth of July firework that was given a match.
His first career sack as a 49er: It arrived on Halloween against mobile Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears.
Among the list of quarterbacks the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder also got his hands on for the sack? Conference champion winning quarterbacks Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and the QB who went to Super Bowl 51 with Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator Matt Ryan.
Ebukam didn’t stop there once the regular season ended. Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford were all helped tussled down to the turf by Ebukam — as he recorded a sack or partial sack in all three playoff games with the 49ers. And his sack of Rodgers came when Ebukam had to redirect himself in traffic:
With his combination of edge speed plus being below the 250-pound mark, Kocurek and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans could toy with the idea of plugging Ebukam inside as a three-technique, which was where they placed Key — which allowed him to still run circles around guards as the focus centered on Bosa. Regardless, Ebukam is looking like a rising defender bound to break out in a loaded S.F. defensive line.