San Francisco 49ers: 3 surprise starters for the defense in 2020
By Peter Panacy
Yes, it would be surprising if these three defenders started for the 49ers in 2020. But it’s not entirely out of the question.
The San Francisco 49ers essentially have just one defensive player they are changing out from their Super Bowl squad a year ago, inserting rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw in now-Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
Considering the turnover the Niners could have had this offseason, it’s pretty notable general manager John Lynch and Co. were able to engineer new deals for some of the team’s once-pending free agents, namely defensive tackle Arik Armstead and safety Jimmie Ward.
While executing these new contracts essentially came at the cost of trading Buckner, it at least put San Francisco’s defense in position to look nearly identical to the top-tier unit it was last season.
That said, there is always room for tweaks and changes, and the 49ers have never shied away from putting their best performers on the field regardless of who they are.
Yes, there aren’t exactly a lot of positions up for grabs. But a number of factors and X-factors — injuries, breakouts in training camp, etc. — could mean the 2020 49ers wind up starting some unpredicted names.
Let’s leave the injury factor out of this discussion for a moment, although teams always prepare ahead for them, and instead focusing on three players who could wind up being shocking starters by the time Week 1 rolls around.
Again, the likelihood of any of these three starting early in 2020 is small, almost infinite.
But that’s why they’d be shockers if Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan ultimately decide they’re worth being out there as the best options on the field early in games.