SF 49ers: Kevin Givens should rise up depth chart vs. NY Giants

Kevin Givens #90 of the San Francisco 49ers tackles Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Kevin Givens #90 of the San Francisco 49ers tackles Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers have received solid play from their backup nose tackle, Kevin Givens, who should see more action versus the Giants in Week 3.

For the most part, the news along the SF 49ers defensive line two weeks into the regular season has been bad.

EDGE Nick Bosa and defensive end Solomon Thomas both tore their ACLs during the Niners’ Week 2 win over the New York Jets, and they’re done for the season. EDGE Dee Ford remains sidelined with a back injury. Nose tackle D.J. Jones has also been banged up with an ankle injury, too.

While all these injuries have been devastating, there have been a few bright spots.

One of those is second-year backup defensive tackle Kevin Givens, the former undrafted free agent out of Penn State who is beginning to make a name for himself as a solid run-stopper early this season.

Givens has already seen 60 defensive snaps this season while serving as Jones’ primary backup. And while signs are Jones will be able to suit up for San Francisco for their Week 3 road matchup versus the New York Giants this Sunday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Givens in the rotation a lot more, both this weekend and in coming weeks.

What’s been more impressive is Givens making the most of his opportunities. He already has three tackles, one of which was for a loss, as well as a quarterback hit. On top of that, Givens boasts the second-highest run-stop win rate (55 percent) of all defensive tackles through two weeks behind the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Tyson Alualu (h/t Fourth and Nine’s Akash Anavarathan).

Pro Football Focus has also taken notice of Givens’ efforts thus far, too. Over the two-game stretch, they’ve rewarded him with a solid 72.5 overall grade, split relatively evenly between his defense against both the run and pass.

Considering Jones suffered a season-ending ankle injury late last year and is currently dealing with a similar setback currently, it would be wise for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to give Givens a bit more attention.

Especially with the additional injuries the SF 49ers are dealing with.

SF 49ers to make Kevin Givens a long-term replacement for D.J. Jones?

While Givens should at least get a little more attention in Week 3 against the Giants, there are some long-term aspects to look at here.

Jones broke out in 2019 before his season came to a premature end, and the early looks of his 2020 campaign suggest he’ll be just as good as he was last year. That’s great for Jones, of course, and the Niners D-line is better for it. But considering San Francisco is pressed up already against the salary cap and will face a cap as low as $175 million in 2021, added to the fact Jones will be a free agent next season, one has to wonder if the 49ers will have trouble re-signing their 2017 sixth-round NFL Draft pick this upcoming offseason.

If it’s too difficult, Givens might be asked to shoulder a bigger load next year for the Niners.

San Francisco already has Givens under contractual control through 2021, and he’ll be an exclusive-rights free agent in 2022, essentially meaning the same thing as he can only negotiate with the 49ers that year.

His total cap hit for 2021? $780,000.

If going the cheaper route is on the table for the Niners without having to sacrifice a ton of production, it’s highly possible Givens winds up assuming the role Jones currently has on the defense this season.

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And if Givens continues to flash, both in Week 3 and beyond, it might be almost guaranteed.