Two things are certain about the 49ers defensive line going into 2018:
1: The issues from 2016, you know, allowing over 2600 rushing yards that season, are fixed.
2: They still haven’t figured out the pass rusher situation.
And that’s the line in a nutshell. Many faces are sticking around from 2017. Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas have become crucial pieces to the line, with Earl Mitchell not far behind in value. Tank Carradine, who was beginning to come into his own, has moved on to the Oakland Raiders. Sheldon Day has joined up from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Jullian Taylor has made the squad as a promising developmental project. If Taylor can get his game together and make progress through his rookie season, he could help solidify this line for 2019.
Unfortunately, while there is promise and some consistency, There. Still. Isn’t. A. Pass. Rush. Maybe when we get to the Minnesota Vikings this week and Robert Saleh makes some disguised blitzes, we can see what the 49ers really have in this unit. As it is, it’s a much more improved unit from recent years as far as stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
But actually bringing the quarterback down is another story.
2017 DL depth chart: Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Tank Carradine, Solomon Thomas, Elvis Dumervil, Xavier Cooper, D.J. Jones, Aaron Lynch
2018 DL depth chart: Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Cassius Marsh, Solomon Thomas, D.J. Jones, Sheldon Day, Ronald Blair, Jullian Taylor
The only departure that stings is Tank Carradine. He was coming into his own in Saleh’s 4-3 defense, which he is fundamentally a better fit for as a player and has been since being drafted in college to the 49ers’ previous 3-4 (gee, isn’t it funny how that works). Dumervil also hurts, but he was on the back end of his career, announcing his retirement last week. There’s no determining if he could be productive this year, though he was probably the best answer until the aforementioned retirement.
With the new movement of Solomon Thomas to the inside/outside and DeForest Buckner out to make a DPOY campaign, perhaps we will all be pleasantly surprised. The defensive line has consistency, and can stop a run.
But you know, that getting to the quarterback thing.
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Are the 49ers better, worse or the same at defensive line compared to the start of 2017?
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