No. 3: 49ers defensive line should be even better in 2020
Last year, the Niners defensive line ranked No. 2 in the league against the pass but fell a little short against the run, 13th overall, according to Football Outsiders.
Indeed, San Francisco recorded 48 sacks on the year, which was tied for fifth most. Having players like Nick Bosa and fellow EDGE Dee Ford was a major reason why, although defensive end Arik Armstead ended up leading the team with 10 regular-season sacks in 2019.
Yet Armstead is looking more at honing this unit’s skills against the run, which could be a weakness this year if not addressed.
“One thing we talked about,” Armstead said, “we were tops in a lot of categories except run defense, where we were middle of the pack. Definitely looking to get better in that aspect.”
The 49ers’ top pick from this year’s NFL Draft, South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, is expected to help in that matter, too. His massive frame is pegged to eat up more double teams than the player he replaced, now-Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, which should free up players like Armstead and Bosa to make more one-on-one tackles against opponents’ running backs.
All the while, not diminishing the Niners’ ability to rush the passer.
If San Francisco can hone this particular aspect of its defense between now and Week 1, Kyle Shanahan’s defense could even be better than it was a year ago, and that unit was awfully good.