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49ers roster battles: Who will be this year’s unsung hero at edge rusher?

The Niners have a couple of options upfront

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2020 season with an embarrassment of riches on the edge. Nick Bosa figures to make the leap to stardom while Arik Armstead will look to build off an impressive 2019 season. If we only named those two, you’d have a strong argument that the Niners have the best edge rushers in the NFL.

You’d be ignoring Dee Ford, who was the seventh-most productive pass rusher per PFF in 2019. Ford finished the season with more sacks (6.5) that most pass rushers do in a full season. Throw in Ronnie Blair’s ability to get after the quarterback while being a terrific run defender, and you have four players you feel comfortable playing “starter snaps.” I’m curious to see whether or not Blair starts the season on the PUP list. If Blair does, the no-brainer decision would be to bring back Damontre Moore, whose “pass-rush productivity” was tied with Bosa, albeit on 400+ fewer snaps.

Solomon Thomas is expected to spend more time inside as opposed to on the edge. That paves the way for Kerry Hyder to be the Niners’ unsung hero this year. Hyder played 289 of his 438 snaps at defensive end last year. I’d expect Kris Kocurek to play with lineups to see who can do what early in the season. Hyder is one of those sound, well-coached, high motor players that will be there to clean up the mess that human wrecking ball Javon Kinlaw made. For what the Niners need, Hyder is an ideal fit.

With all of the games the 49ers play along the defensive front, Hyder will find himself in the face of quarterbacks if given the opportunity. He’s not Blair, but he’s not far off. Hyder can also rush from the inside if needed. It’s tough to imagine Hyder not being more productive lining up on a field with Bosa, Ford, and Armstead—which could end up being a promising sub-package defensive line.

Unless Alex Barrett, Jonathan Kongbo, or Willie Henry surprise, the only other option that will make an impact on the roster is Kentavius Street, who didn’t look ready in three appearances. Street played 39 snaps and notched one pressure. Week 17, Street’s PFF grade was 30.1 in eight snaps. The 49ers can afford to be patient with Street as he has two years left on his deal. With no production, there’s no threat of Street going anywhere if he ends up bursting onto the scene, perfect. If Street still needs time to shake off the rust from arthroscopic knee surgery in August 2019. Street missed all of 2018 after tearing his ACL during a pre-draft workout. Kyle Shanahan said Street battled tendinitis all training camp, much like Ford. Hopefully, we see the player that once thought of as a high draft pick prior to the injury.