49ers Defensive Unit Slated for Return to ‘Elite’ Level, Says Analyst

Nick Bosa

Getty Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers silences the crowd.

Can the San Francisco 49ers get back on track to having a daunting defense as they did back in 2019?

According to the latest Pro Football Focus defensive line rankings, it looks promising with the return of several key players.

Here’s what PFF had to say about putting the 49ers a No. 9 on the list:

“San Francisco’s defensive line went from borderline unblockable in 2019 to underwhelming in 2020. That’s to be expected after the team traded away one of the NFL’s best interior defenders (DeForest Buckner) and was without Nick Bosa and Dee Ford for all but 80 combined defensive snaps in 2020 because of injury. Bosa and Ford’s return to play alongside Arik Armstead could give the 49ers one of the best edge rotations in the NFL. San Francisco will also need Javon Kinlaw (54.1 PFF grade as a rookie) to make a second-year jump to get back toward the elite group we saw two years ago.”

With playmakers such as Ford, Buckner, Armstead, and Bosa leading the way, the 49ers finished
second in total yards allowed and third in expected points. They also earned themselves a Super Bowl appearance.

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 PFF’s Top 10 Heading into Week 1

49ers Rams

GettyRaheem Mostert #31 of the San Francisco 49ers runs against the LA Rams.

Looking at the NFC West division, the only other team in the top 10 is the LA Rams, even with significant losses in John Johnson and Troy Hill.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2.  Washington Football Team
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Los Angeles Rams
5. Philadelphia Eagles
6. Chicago Bears
7. New York Jets
8. New Orleans Saints
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Denver Broncos


49ers “New” Defense Coach Is Very Confident

Despite an injury bug with Ford, Bosa, and Richard Sherman sidelined, the 49ers still finished the season ranked high in yards allowed per game in 2020 under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Saleh now has bigger fish to fry as the head coach for the New York Jets. Head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t look too far to fill the spot and handed the play-calling reins over linebackers coach DeMeco Ryan for this season.

Ryan gave a preview of what to expect from the Niners’ defense this season even without the return of Sherman and Buckner.

“Our defense will be a fast, attacking, aggressive defense,” Ryans said during last week’s OTA’s, per 49ers Webzone. “I want guys to play fast. I want guys who are smart. I want guys who are going to play physical.”

He also emphasized that while he will be putting his own spin on things so, we won’t be seeing the exact same schemes as we saw under Saleh.

“I am my own person. Saleh has taught me a lot, probably one of the coaches that’s taught me the most football that I’ve been around,” Ryans said. He’s been very integral to my development as a coach, and I can’t thank him enough for all the things he’s instilled in me. So there will be some of the similar scheme things that we’ve done in the past. You will see some similarities there, but you will see some wrinkles. You will see my brand of football on it.”

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