49ers roster: Grading each position halfway through scuffling 2021 season

D.J. Jones #93 and Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
D.J. Jones #93 and Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers Defensive Line

As was the case in 2019, the 49ers defensive line was supposed to be the No. 1 strength of the team this season. After all, the Niners were getting back EDGEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford from nearly season-long injuries a year ago, and the depth was infused by retaining pass-rusher Jordan Willis and inking former Los Angeles Rams EDGE Samson Ebukam.

Willis was suspended for the first six games, though, while Ebukam has just one sack over the year thus far. And Ford is back on injured reserve with a back injury again.

Tells you pretty much what you need to know from this unit.

Speaking of the pass rush, Bosa is leading the team with an impressive seven sacks, which suggests he’ll be a Pro Bowler this season. And while the stats haven’t necessarily shown it, defensive end Arik Armstead is quietly having a good season, too.

This, however, is quite shocking:

Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics currently rank San Francisco’s D-line fifth against the run through eight games but 25th against the pass. And with second-year defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw shelved for the rest of the season with a knee injury, it’s possible the run defense takes a big hit over the remainder of 2021, too.

Yes, this unit is underperforming mightily. While the grade might seem average, it should be much, much higher considering all those high-profile investments.

Grade: D+