The 49ers’ investments in the pass rush certainly impressed Pro Football Focus
The San Francisco 49ers have a loaded roster heading into the 2020 season, which is why many look at them as a top Super Bowl contender yet again.
And one of the key reasons why the Niners are Super Bowl contenders is due to the multitude of investments the team has made in its defensive line in recent years. This certainly caught Pro Football Focus‘ attention, who recently put together a ranking of the top edge-rushing duos in the league in advance of the 2020 campaign.
"One team into the list and I’m already cheating, but the fact that the 49ers have a trio of edge defenders worthy of recognition here is the reason that they’re the first team off the board.In just his second NFL season, Bosa is going to be the lead dog of the group after a record-setting rookie campaign. Edge defenders aren’t supposed to step into the NFL and perform at an elite level in their first season, but nobody told Bosa that — his 80 regular-season pressures were more than any rookie since the PFF era began in 2006 and were good enough to rank sixth among all defenders last season, tied with the human outlier Aaron Donald. Bosa’s 17.2% pressure rate was fourth among all players with 250 or more pass-rushing snaps on the season, as well. Like his brother, Joey Bosa, Nick wasted little to no time in announcing that he was one of the premier edge defenders in the NFL.Across from him will be either Ford, Armstead or both Ford and Armstead in a nightmarish situation for opposing offensive lines."
Armstead, San Francisco’s top pick from the 2015 NFL Draft, finally came into his own last season. Ford, who was acquired via a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason, will look to replicate a career-best year from 2017 this upcoming season.
Bosa, meanwhile, needed no introduction after being selected No. 2 overall in 2019.
The 49ers were tied for fifth in the league last year with 48 sacks, and Armstead led the way for the franchise with a career-best 10 sacks.
That pass-rushing prowess, which also included nine from Bosa in his rookie season, was a prime reason why the Niners boasted the league’s best pass defense over the course of the year. Armed with these three pass-rushers off the edge, few teams were equipped well enough to block everyone, especially with 2018 Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner eating up opponents in the middle.
Buckner is now gone, though, and San Francisco is hoping its top pick from this year’s NFL Draft, South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, can adequately fill the void soon enough in year one.
Kinlaw’s development will be crucial in ensuring the 49ers pass rush remains just as potent moving forward. That said, there are still more than a handful of reasons to be bullish about the defensive line heading into 2020.
Bosa is expected to be even better than he was in his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign a season ago, which should be scary for other teams around the league. And if Armstead finally hit his peak after a so-so four years prior to 2019, it’ll be all the more promising.
But the kicker is Ford, who was limited by various injuries last season to just 11 games and 6.5 sacks. Ford underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the offseason on the leg which was hindering him for much of 2019, and now he’s expected to be back fully healthy.
That’s also great news for San Francisco’s defense.
49ers doing well in Pro Football Focus’ other top-duo lists
PFF wasn’t just excited about what San Francisco’s pass-rushing trio could do this upcoming season. They were also praising the Niners’ cornerbacking duo of Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams, who were listed at the top of the list of qualifiers heading into 2020.
While nickel corners don’t receive anywhere near the attention as boundary defensive backs, it’s hard to overlook Williams as one of the league’s best players at this spot.
Interestingly enough, both Sherman and Williams are entering contract years.
Offensive tackles Mike McGlinchey and Trent Williams barely missed out in the top five, earning honorable mentions from PFF instead.
Regardless, it’s looking as if the Niners are impressing the right folks heading into what’s going to be a crucial campaign for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.