SF 49ers Defensive front-seven
DE/EDGE Nick Bosa
DT Javon Kinlaw
DT DJ Jones
DE Arik Armstead
LB Dre Greenlaw
LB Kwon Alexander
LB Fred Warner
Because not much as changed on the defensive side of the ball, expect the starting group to more or less remain the same was it was at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
Obviously the loss of former Niners-now-Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner changes the look a little, but the team would expect rookie first-round pick Javon Kinlaw to slide right into the spot vacated by Buckner, at least in base downs.
While Kinlaw may not feature as much as Buckner did last season — they are different types of players, after all — look for the 49ers to get as much out of the rookie as they can, using him not just on traditional running downs, but in pass-rushing situations, too.
Outside of that, second-year edge rusher Nick Bosa looks stronger and more explosive in camp so far, and going up against Trent Williams in practice every day should only help his development. He and last season’s breakout star, Arik Armstead, should be the key members of that 49ers defensive line.
Nose tackle D.J. Jones current health situation is in limbo, having just come out of the concussion protocol. But if he’s ready to go, look for him to feature as another important piece of the rotation.
There are other key members of that group, such as edge rushers Dee Ford and Ronald Blair and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, but these guys should be the starters for Week 1.
With the linebackers, the only real question is who comes off the field when the 49ers move to nickel and dime packages.
Middle linebacker Fred Warner will be the every-down guy, so it’ll come down to Kwon Alexander, who started as the WILL linebacker in 2019, and Dre Greenlaw, who took over at the position after Alexander’s pectoral injury and never relinquished the spot.
Kyle Shanahan has stated that it’s Alexander’s job to lose and that he “doesn’t see it as an open competition,” but time will tell.
For now, all three are starters, but who knows will end up playing the most snaps in 2020.