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Why the need for another edge rusher opposite Bosa is greater than the need to replace DeForest Buckner

Kevin is back with a strong opinion

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Yes, indeed, yes, indeed. Welcome to (or back to) the Silverado for yet another ride. Hopefully, you and yours are doing well and staying safe and healthy during these trying and uncertain times. That said, consider this a means to take your mind off the madness of the outside world and just enjoy the moment talking San Francisco 49ers football and tonight’s draft.

You know the drill, safety first, so go ahead and buckle up, and we’ll get moving. At the moment, what most are talking about is what the 49ers will do with the #13 pick, whether they’ll pick a wide receiver with the pick, or if they’ll trade back, or will they go offensive line, and rightly so as all are valid conversations, especially with the chatter of Joe Staley returning being uncertain.

But for now, we’ll discuss a few topics I feel are just as important, but nobody is talking about. That being, the plan at defensive tackle (3T) after trading DeForest Buckner (DeFo) to the Indianapolis Colts and why I feel another edge rusher to compliment Nick Bosa (simultaneously taking the pressure off Dee Ford) is more important than trying to find another 3T to replace DeFo.

Not saying we need to draft an edge guy with our first pick, what I am saying is attempting to draft a DeFo replacement with our first pick wouldn’t be a good idea. Look, I’ve always been and will be a huge fan of DeFo and will continue to wear the all-black 49ers jersey of his I have. You think I won’t when I will? Call it a throwback if you will, but I’ll still rock my DeFo jersey.

I’m going to miss him and his contributions to this team as well, I’m just not in a panic to replace him like some others are. Stay with me, and it’ll all make sense by the time we’re done with our ride. And please don’t take this as my disregard of who he was and what he did for this defense while here, that’s furthest from the truth.

During his time in San Francisco, DeFo accumulated 263 tackles (166 solo), 38 TFL, 74 QB hits, 28.5 sacks (career-high 12 in 2018), seven fumble recoveries (1 TD), three forces fumbles, 11 passes defended. He had his best season in 2018 when he racked up a career-high 12 sacks. You know what? Roll tape!

DeFo most definitely put in work while he was in red and gold and was even the best player on defense for some time. That’s just it; one just doesn’t replace a seasoned and dominant defender (especially on the interior defensive line among grown men) like DeFo with a rookie who’s yet to take a snap in the NFL.

As of now, word on the street is Javon Kinlaw has been discussed as a possible option at #13, and yes to “replace” DeFo.

Don’t get me wrong, Kinlaw is an awesome and promising prospect, and I’m sure he’ll make an impact on whichever team he’s drafted by. I just don’t feel the 49ers need to go defensive tackle at #13, especially when the team has other needs, like WR, CB, and OL. Not particularly in that order of importance, but just as noted needs.

You know I’ll give it to you straight, no chaser seven days a week, twice on Sunday, and have no problem telling you how I really feel about anything I take the time to address. So, I for one just don’t feel it’s realistic to expect him (Kinlaw) or any other rookie to come right in, have an impact worthy of a #13 overall selection, not to mention, fill DeFo’s shoes, in any way, shape, or form. Simply put, it’s unfair to expect such from a rookie.

To expect any rookie to just walk in and have an immediate impact in the trenches at defensive tackle is an unrealistic expectation. Now mind you, there have been some rookie defensive tackles that came in, and smooth got their grown man on in their debut seasons, but it’s just not likely.

Think about it, before DeFo the last names to truly just come in and have an impact at defensive tackle were Dana Stubblefield and Bryant Young. The likelihood of that history repeating itself is slim. Too slim at that position, in my opinion, to again take a defensive tackle at that high and expect an instant impact.

While I stand firm on my belief that trying to replace DeFo (at #13) isn’t a dire need, I do agree there’s still a need for another (strong presence at) 3T (DT), and I’d like to see the team draft at least one at some point in the draft. I also stand strong on my belief that another (5T) edge rusher who can also defend the run well is more important.

Also, keep in mind, the team has some good depth returning this season. Namely, DJ Jones, who is said to be healthy and more determined than ever to be great. That said, roll tape!

Jones was having his best season yet and taking folks lunch money before he got hurt last year, and I, for one, can’t wait to see him healthy again. Though he’s in most cases a 1T nose tackle and plays mostly in base, I wouldn’t mind seeing what he can do at 3T from time to time.

So like I said, there’s good depth in the middle of this defensive line and there are other pressing needs. Also keep in mind, Julian Taylor will also be back and healthy to provide some depth in the middle. So again, no need to reach (gamble) on an NFL unproven interior defensive lineman too early. In this case too early meaning at #13 if the decide not to trade back.

Now, you’re going to have to forgive me here and hopefully I don’t lose you, as some don’t like this name and get an instant attitude when they here it. But stay with me. Solomon Thomas (braces for reaction) has yet to truly hit his stride or ceiling. And yes, I’m very much aware of his “bust” label he’s been given, as he’s yet to play to potential or anywhere close to well enough to warrant him being selected third overall in 2017.

Say what you want, though he hasn’t just had a breakout year yet, he’s most definitely flashed and made some nice plays. And with DeFo now gone, he’ll have every opportunity to shine inside (where he’s most effective) at 3T backing up Arik Armstead. Something I learned during my 14 years in the Navy and have preached as a youth coach, “competition eliminates itself”. Case and point, this is your shot Solly, the time is now! I truly hope he finally hits that switch and dominates.

The addition of another edge threat would allow Armstead to focus on playing three 3T and staying fresh, instead of having to jump back and forth to the edge at big end. Of course based upon the situation, he may still kick outside, but hopefully the team will have the luxury of another edge threat (big end that can rush the passer) and he can play predominantly inside at 3T.

Consider this as well. Another threat at edge (be it trade, free agent, or draft) would help Dee Ford and Nick Bosa as well. Ford gets to stay fresh (and hopefully healthy) as possible, and Bosa isn’t burdened or overworked with the pressure of being the only edge rusher to speak of.

Of course, some will say, “well, Ronald Blair is coming back, he gets it done on the edge.” And this is a true statement. But with him hitting IR with a torn ACL in week 10, would he not start the season on the PUP list? I can’t wait for him to return either, but that’s something to think about.

Hopefully, by now, my point has begun to gel a bit. And with the news of Ford being on the trade block dropping recently, that need for an edge rusher I speak of is that much more important than another defensive tackle, or a “DeFo replacement” per se.

Though Ford was brought in to play a limited role as a situational pass rusher, due to his knee tendinitis issue, that role was even limited. But make no mistake, the defense was much better with him on the field than with him off the field.

I understand the salary cap issue, his big contract, and his injury concerns moving forward, but I’d like to give him at least one more season to see if he can stay on the field before moving on from him. Unless of course they get a legit edge rusher in return and some good draft capital. In that situation I could understand them moving on.

This defense together or “unlocked” as they say with the improved edge rushers was historically good, fun to watch, and down right filthy when healthy. Roll tape!

I promise I could watch these clips all day. Listen, we’ve already lost DeFo; let’s not add to that (if at all possible) and lose Ford, Alexander, or Tartt (all starters) as well. They all contributed to how dominant the defense was last season.

Thanks for riding, but before you go....

Knowing the team has other needs as I’ve discussed earlier in the ride, I just don’t feel taking a defensive lineman at #13 with the intent on him walking right in to replace DeFo would be a good idea.

My goal this ride wasn’t to sway your opinion of who we should draft with our first pick (whether we stay at #13 and #31 or not); instead, my goal was to stress why I feel the need for another edge rusher to compliment Bosa is greater than the need to find a replacement for DeFo with #13 pick. We’ve consistently invested into this interior defensive line, and that didn’t really begin to pay off until the arrival of Bosa.

Knowing that, go find another dawg on the edge to take some pressure off Bosa! The edge is where its at. I don’t care who you, pressure busts pipes! Doesn’t matter who you have in the middle, they can just be average. Because if your edge rushers are above average to great them dawgs in the middle are going to feast. Don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe!

So for the last time, please don’t get caught up in this you have to draft a DeFo replacement at #13 or even with any other first round pick. I do believe Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are going to make this team better tonight and I’m already thankful. I just really hope they don’t draft a defensive tackle in the first round.

Sorry, not sorry. And you don’t have to agree with me, trust it doesn’t bother me. So I’m not trying to force my opinion on you, I’m just discussing the thought behind it. But as I digress.

Even with the departure of DeFo, this defense (and team) will and can still be dominant, especially if they work this draft as a good hand of spades tonight. Not sure if they hold what they have at #13 or they get into trades to acquire more picks, but they most definitely need to nail this draft more than any other. Let’s see what bricks they add in this brick by brick process.