The SF 49ers have had to rely on some serious depth this season, and a number of players have shown massive improvement from last year.
With only five more regular-season games left to go, the SF 49ers are going to need some massive contributions from players who weren’t exactly expected to be cornerstone pieces this year.
No team has been hit harder by injuries this season than the Niners, who have more than their share of names on injured reserve and have lost more player game days than any other squad in the league. Not surprisingly, the depth has been tested, forcing what was considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender entering 2020 into the realm of fighting and scrapping for one of the precious Wild Card berths still up for grabs.
At 5-6 through 12 weeks, there have been disappointments. But there also have been some good stories, too, namely stemming from players who otherwise weren’t expected to be major contributors this season.
In many cases, those players could end up earning “most improved” accolades when the season is finally finished.
Here are four who should be on that list.
No. 4: SF 49ers Defensive Tackle Kevin Givens
Second-year pro defensive tackle Kevin Givens was on the roster bubble in training camp, competing for one of the precious few spots behind a bona fide crop of starters.
He made the cut, though, after going undrafted in 2019 and seeing action in just one regular-season game last season. Now, after being a modest role player last season, Givens has seen 11 games and started one, Week 12 against the LA Rams, and has 13 tackles, four for a loss, three quarterback hits, a fumble recovery and a sack while playing 47 percent of defensive snaps in the wake of multiple injuries along the defensive front.
Those efforts have resulted in a highly positive 65.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, suggesting Givens could be a long-term fixture in San Francisco’s defensive rotation in the coming years.
With starting nose tackle D.J. Jones a pending free agent in 2021, it’s at least good to know Givens is rising to the occasion if the SF 49ers elect to move on from the former.