49ers’ Shanahan Praises Underrated Defender in Contract Season: ‘Hell of a Year’

Colt McCoy

Getty Colt McCoy gets sacked by Kevin Givens on November 21, 2022 in Mexico City.

One San Francisco 49ers defender has risen up the depth chart to put together a “hell of a year” as head coach Kyle Shanahan put it on Wednesday, November 23.

More so, Kevin Givens has gone from backup to key cog on the defensive line amid some significant injuries. And the 25-year-old is already putting together a career-best season, in a contract year.

Kyle Shanahan Raves About Kevin Givens

Speaking with the Bay Area media a day after officially returning from their 38-10 rout of the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City in Week 11, Shanahan got asked how important Givens has been in the absence of both Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead?

“He’s been huge,” were the first three words from Shanahan. “Some of the depth we lost early on with Arik, Javon, even going back to [DL] Maurice [Hurst] in training camp. Kevin’s had a lot more put on his shoulders and when you do that, Kevin always plays well. You just worry about guys wearing down as the year goes and right when I started to feel he might be doing that, I thought he had a hell of game this week and he made some big plays and he’s been able to take care of his body, so he can handle this kind of thing that’s been put on him. And he’s had a hell of a year for us.”

In tracing back to the Cards game, Givens may not have put up the most astronomical of numbers: Only 2 tackles and 1 quarterback hit. However, the two stops the 6-foot-1, 285-pounder delivered were behind the line of scrimmage including this sack of Colt McCoy where he blew through the right guard:

Givens, from this angle, turned to a “jab and go” hand technique to deliver the sack.

He used the same arm move to shed past the left guard on this run stop at Estadio Azteca as well:

Popular NFL Analyst Raved About 1 Disruptive Play From Givens

But it wasn’t just Shanahan raving about the fourth-year interior defender after the 28-point shellacking of the Niners’ NFC West foe.

NFL Network analyst and former offensive lineman Brian Baldinger gave Givens some praise in his Wednesday “Baldy Breakdowns.” Baldinger even highlighting how Givens defeated a potential “choke” move to win his battle along the line of scrimmage.

“He sees it [the block] immediately. So he swims to defeat the block,” Baldinger said in his film review. “Now, he’s chasing from the backside.”

Baldinger, though, mentioned what made Givens’ presence so effective: The Cards tried to trap block Nick Bosa on the play. But Bosa got low enough to disrupt the block and clog up the lane. Because Givens swam free from his blocker, he became the one who snatched the play from behind for the loss behind the line.

“Defeat the block and chase,” Baldinger described that sequence for Givens. “Can’t play a play better than that.”

Givens Could Set up Huge Payday in 2023 Offseason

Givens is the latest to prove how deep the 49ers are in the trenches — especially if key guys like Kinlaw and Armstead go down.

And he’s proven his impact during a contract year.

Givens signed a one-year, $895,000 deal to remain with the 49ers during the offseason. Now, he’s already delivered more single-season tackles for a loss at seven and more sacks at two in his career.

He’s one of eight free agent listings for the 2023 cycle. But there’s good news for 49er fans who hope to see him extend his Bay stay: He’s a restricted free agent and not unrestricted — meaning a team would likely have to extend a tender deal in order to nab him.

But in the absence of two missing first rounders, it’s the undrafted member of the 2019 class who’s taken advantage, creating a “hell of a year” with the 49ers.

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