No. 2: 49ers interior run defense
San Francisco’s defensive line remains a strong point heading into 2022, highlighted by Pro Bowl EDGE Nick Bosa and the Round 2 NFL Draft addition of former USC pass-rusher Drake Jackson.
However, the interior of the 49ers’ D-line might end up being something of a relative weakness, particularly against the run and in light of losing nose tackle D.J. Jones in free agency to the Broncos.
Jones, who assumed a much bigger role in the wake of the Niners losing defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw after four weeks to a knee injury last year, made a huge statement in San Francisco allowing just 4.0 yards per carry in 2021. With Jones gone, a fully healthy Kinlaw now assumes a massively important role as the 49ers’ primary interior run-stopper.
The 49ers employ a wide-9 alignment, meaning edge rushers like Bosa and Jackson are going to be aligned far outside the box to open up better pass-rushing opportunities. Yet this means interior defenders need to be on point with their run-stopping efforts to guard against opponents picking up close to 5 yards per carry, especially on interior attempts.
If players like Kinlaw and fellow defensive tackle Arik Armstead are equal to the task and aren’t locked up by a single run-blocker with any sort of regularity this season, the Niners won’t be too vulnerable against inside rushes like they were early in 2021.
Training camp will nevertheless reveal if this will be a problem, though.