Kevin Givens faces challenging road to 49ers 53-man roster in 2022

Kevin Givens #90 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Kevin Givens #90 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

On the surface, Kevin Givens appears poised to make the 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2022, but there are numerous X-factors working against him.

During a sizable chunk of the 2020 season, one in which the San Francisco 49ers were dealing with all kinds of devastating injuries, depth nose tackle Kevin Givens was showcasing to head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. why he could be a long-term figurehead for the team’s defensive line.

After all, Givens was shining in the wake of then-Niners starting nose tackle D.J. Jones dealing with injury setbacks, and the former contributed nicely with a career-best 19 tackles, five of which were for a loss, three quarterback hits, a fumble recovery and a sack.

While it might have seemed extreme at the time, the thought Givens could eventually replace Jones was certainly on the table.

Kevin Givens Defense & Fumbles Table

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San Francisco re-signed Jones to a one-year deal the following offseason, however, and Givens reverted back to being a depth player only.

However, with Jones out of the picture this offseason after signing with the Denver Broncos, one might think the former undrafted free agent out of Penn State would be a shoo-in to make the 49ers’ 53-man roster, right?

Well, not so fast.

Let’s take a look at why Givens has to showcase his value right away, why he might falter and what chances he has to survive post-preseason roster cuts.

Why Kevin Givens makes a thump with 49ers in 2022

Givens was never going to surpass Jones as long as both were on the roster, so there is an increased chance of opportunity there.

And while Givens was known for being a decent rotational run-stopper, his pass-rush prowess flashed a little bit in an increased role in 2020, evidenced by a modestly respectable 64.9 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus that season.

On top of that, Givens appears to be a favorite of defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, too, who showered him with praise in advance of 2021 despite the Niners boasting a deep defensive line.

All these factors bode well for Givens’ roster chances, as does the fact the interior of San Francisco’s D-line has some question marks in the wake of Jones’ departure.

Why Kevin Givens falls out of favor with 49ers in 2022

It’s one thing to have a flash of a season in the wake of other players’ injuries and within the context of a banged-up defensive line.

It’s another to maintain that continuity.

Givens’ PFF grade from 2020 understandably fell in 2021, as did his production in light of a much healthier crop, dropping in the pass-rush department to 59.9.

And as far as overall grades are concerned, Givens has never crested the 60.0 mark in his three-year career.

Perhaps Givens is merely a decent backup who can plug a gap if need be, but those players are generally easy to find, making him a relatively expendable commodity.

Kevin Givens’ role in 2022 if he makes 49ers 53-man roster

Givens is entering year three of his current contract, and he’ll cost San Francisco $895,000 this season but with zero guaranteed money, according to Over the Cap.

A restricted free agent in 2023, the 49ers could nevertheless waive Givens in advance of Week 1 with zero financial ramifications, meaning his spot on the regular-season roster is anything but guaranteed.

There’ll be some stiff competition, too.

Despite Jones’ departure, the Niners are eagerly anticipating a fully healthy return of their 2020 first-round NFL Draft pick, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who figures to assume most of Jones’ interior duties. Additionally, the free-agent pickup of another versatile defensive lineman, Hassan Ridgeway, could serve to take snaps away from Givens.

Even one of San Francisco’s late-round draft picks this year, UCF’s Kalia Davis, might eventually thwart Givens’ roster chances down the road, although Davis is currently recovering from an ACL tear and might not be ready by the start of the regular season.

Simply put, Givens’ landing spot could be anywhere from an immediate backup for the D-line’s interior or off the roster altogether by the time Week 1 rolls around, meaning his efforts over the course of training camp and in the preseason will be vital.

If he does survive cuts, he’ll likely revert back into that 2021-type role as a rotational backup with the potential to start in a pinch.

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