The San Francisco 49ers have made significant investments in their defensive line the past few years, spending first round picks on Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in 2015 and 2016. They took an eve bigger plunge in 2017, drafting Solomon Thomas and D.J. Jones, signing Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil, and claiming Xavier Cooper off waivers.
Coming off a truly horrendous 2016 season, the 49ers defensive front is in a position for a big turnaround. They made a big change right off the bat with the decision to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3. We were already seeing plenty of four-man fronts in the sub-packages, but now we will four man fronts almost exclusively.
The big key for this year’s defensive line will be the rotation. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina have made it clear we won’t see DeForest Buckner leading defensive linemen in snaps again. He will likely still be plenty busy on the line, but nothing like what we saw last year.
2016 DL depth chart
Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Quinton Dial, Glenn Dorsey, Mike Purcell, Ronald Blair, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Taylor Hart
2017 DL depth chart
Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Tank Carradine, Solomon Thomas, Elvis Dumervil, Xavier Cooper, D.J. Jones, Aaron Lynch
I pondered trying to break down defensive tackles and defensive ends, but in reality, we’re going to see plenty of players moving inside and outside. Mitchell and Jones will likely play exclusively on the interior, and Tank will likely spend most of his time on the end. Buckner is primarily a tackle, but I could see them getting creative with him.
With all that in mind, I just decided to list them together. Comparing the two units, how do you see this group compared to a year ago? I would have liked to see Quinton Dial stick around, but otherwise, I think we have seen some significant upgrades. Vote in the poll below. If you don’t see it, click here.
Are the 49ers better, worse, or the same along the defensive line compared to the start of 2016?
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