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Preseason standouts: Kevin Givens makes a name for himself vs Denver

In the second week of preseason, UDFA DT Kevin Givens was a disruptive presence against the Denver Broncos

NFL: San Francisco 49ers-Rookie Minicamp Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

“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.

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.

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.