“Who’s number 60?”
If you were watching last night’s game against the Denver Broncos, you probably said or thought that. Number 60 was everywhere. In the backfield and chasing ball carriers downfield, you could not miss Number 60.
Number 60 is Kevin Givens. An undrafted free agent out of Penn State, who forewent his senior season to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, 49ers fans could be forgiven for not knowing Number 60. The defensive line is probably the most stacked position on the 49ers’ team. The team will likely roll out four first-round picks as starters. Another first-round pick will be on the bench. The team drafted two other interior defenders last season. D.J Jones, a 2017 draft pick beat out veteran Earl Mitchell to earn the starting nose tackle berth last season. Sheldon Day always flashes. Ronald Blair was second on the team in sacks last season. No one really thought for a second that an undrafted free agent would even be able to throw his hat into the ring for a spot on the 53.
Kevin Givens did not throw his hat into the ring though. He exploded into the ring last night in Denver.
A former multi-sport athlete at Altoona (PA) Area HS, Givens participated in football, basketball, and athletics (sprints, javelin and shot put).
The explosiveness, power, and movement skills that made him a multi-sport athlete served him well at Penn State. After redshirting his freshman year, Givens appeared as a hybrid defensive end/defensive tackle in his redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore years. As a redshirt junior, he moved exclusively to defensive tackle. He performed at a high level every year of college, as both a pass rusher and run defender. His explosiveness, snap recognition, power and coordination made him a nightmare for offensive linemen at the college level.
All the below clips are from his redshirt junior season - his last season in college.
Let's go back to the college tape first though. Givens was 23rd out of 120 tracked DTs in pass rush productivity per PFF last season. The thing that consistently jumps out on film is his first step quickness. RDT here at 3T, blasts pasts the guard who can't recover & holds him pic.twitter.com/LAnqEYf29X— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
He's also extremely stout & can fight through double teams. Once he's travelling in a specific direction, he's a hard man to redirect once he's past you. Splits a double team with ease here. Explosive again pic.twitter.com/5m2dY7lDtN— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
Despite performing statistically better as a pass rusher, his grade in the running game was actually superior. That is borne out by the film. His first step explosiveness, quickness, co-ordination & power routinely show up. Here at RDT, he tosses the FB easily aside for a TFL pic.twitter.com/kZPXqiW9Al— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
DTs should beat up FBs. He regularly roasted offensive linemen as well. Explosiveness to completely cross the guards face untouched & meets the RB in the backfield. TFL pic.twitter.com/87C1L4rpgP— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
Ohio State try the wildcat here. Unfortunately, Givens is past the centre before he can lay a meaningful hand on him. He's just way too quick. TFL pic.twitter.com/TYBOYyEzp1— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
On occasion, that explosiveness, as well as his motor, led to some truly sensational plays. Crosses the left guard's face instantly at RDT in pursuit of the outside run. Chases the RB out to the numbers & makes the TFL pic.twitter.com/vW5GAcY3nn— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
He had a game against Ohio State. Shows his power & stoutness to split the centre-guard double team here at RDT, then gets after the RB to bring him down pic.twitter.com/TnWOKMHye9— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
His college film indeed contained some impressive plays. Not only did it showcase his physical attributes, but Givens’ work rate was also regularly on display.
Somewhat surprisingly, Givens went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. Given his film, most pre-draft reports had Givens with draftable (albeit late round) grades.
Nevertheless, the former Nittany Lion landed on his feet, with the 49ers picking him up as an undrafted free agent. Givens’ explosiveness ensures he is an excellent fit in the wide 9 scheme the 49ers have adopted this season. That explosiveness and his ability to get upfield off the snap were on full display against the Broncos.
Givens' explosiveness is the perfect trait for the 49ers' wide 9 scheme & its demands along the DL. Starting against Denver, Givens showed his quality. Playing at LDT, here on third & 8 it's Givens who blows past the LG with a club-arm over to flush Flacco, forcing the throw away pic.twitter.com/cdU2EnNqvg— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
On this play, he blows past the centre. His snap timing & first step that were so impactful in college translated. Givens combines with Garcia-Williams & Tarvarius Moore flying down from deep safety (likely quarters) to cause this TFL pic.twitter.com/WTy7LzWUmP— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
First player to move again & he's past the tackle-guard double team in an instant. Explodes upfield. Kocurek will have been absolutely loving seeing Givens just ignoring the LOS pic.twitter.com/rRUyH1QrOx— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
Splits another double team here. Explodes into the A gap initially, but then stacks & sheds the guard to come free into the B gap after the centre moves to the second level. Just looked easy & makes the TFL. Fellow rookie Jordan Thompson throwing the LG down too. Need Kocurek-Cam pic.twitter.com/PQ0U2ae4S1— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
Final really notable play before he was given a well-earned rest. Lined up as a 2i tech, he decides he'd prefer things if the centre was 4 yards deep. Makes it happen with one arm, creating a chasm for Azeez Al-Shaair to shoot into pic.twitter.com/vpym6H4PHF— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
NOT END THREAD. I missed a couple more Givens plays... Motor on display here at the start of the game. Once again gets in the backfield off the snap and chases Sanders 20 yards down the field pic.twitter.com/oPfn0MePCb— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
Nice play from Witherspoon here to beat the block and react to the TE screen here (Fant is his man on this call). But check out Givens putting the left guard on the floor. Broncos needed two to block him frequently as he often beat his man very quickly pic.twitter.com/8Krse01df8— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
A good rep from Solly on the toss widening & just darting through unblocked. Good from Givens again too, LG can't stop him as he goes through the back door in pursuit & does a decent belly flop on the RB pic.twitter.com/weZkJqCQND— Scott Geelan (@Scott_Geelan) August 20, 2019
Understandably, given his inexperience, not every snap was so impressive. On a couple of occasions, he ended up on the ground or got driven out of his gap by a double team. As a pass rusher, he got stoned a couple of times, but there were instances when that was only after a second blocker came over to help Givens’ immediate opponent.
Nevertheless, making a legitimately disruptive impact on almost a quarter of your snaps is a seriously good performance for any player, especially an undrafted defensive tackle. Quite how Pro Football Focus only gave him a 47.3 grade is baffling, given he received a solid 68.1 grade in week one and made much more of an impact this week.
It is clear that the 49ers like Givens. If he’s performing as he did against Denver in practice, it’s not hard to see why.
With injuries inside, he was given the opportunity to start the game and seized his chance. His explosiveness was frequently on display, he demonstrated admirable stoutness to stay in his gap or on his path to the ball carrier, whilst his powerful hands and quickness ensured he could defeat and elude blockers. When he goes beyond the quarterback, he has a spin move to redirect back to the quarterback, or he has the power to throw his opponent. Capable of lining up at 2i or 3-tech, or even at defensive end if required, his versatility is also immensely appealing. Ultimately, Givens looks an intriguing blend of power and finesse, quickness and stoutness. His journey will be fascinating to follow. Hopefully, Number 60 is just getting started.