Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski went through each NFL team to find a surprise starter who could emerge during this upcoming season. The San Francisco 49ers are tougher than most teams, as only a couple of starting spots are up for grabs.
There could be plenty of opportunities for players to step up, specifically along the defensive line. Sobleski believes the Niners surprise starter that could emerge is defensive tackle, Kevin Givens:
So much of the San Francisco 49ers’ success last season was built upon the play of their defensive front. The approach should continue this fall, but the group won’t look the same after general manager John Lynch traded DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts and Sheldon Day signed with the same AFC South squad.
The 49ers responded by drafting Javon Kinlaw with this year’s 14th overall pick. However, San Francisco’s effectiveness derived from its depth and how its pass-rushers came at opposing quarterbacks in waves.
Opportunities should arise for others, especially since Solomon Thomas is in the final year of his rookie contract after three disappointing seasons.
Kevin Givens signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent last year. He’s undersized but very active. His ability to get into the opponent’s backfield fits perfectly with the 49ers.
I may be in the minority, but I don’t think the defensive line will change much in 2020. I don’t expect Kinlaw to be as good as Buckner was right away, but he won’t be far off. The expectation is that the defense will receive more snaps from Dee Ford and have an improved Nick Bosa. Those two alone will make a world of difference upfront. Also, Sobleski forgot to mention D.J. Jones.
Anyone who watched the 49ers last year knows how much D.J. meant to the defensive line last year. The battle for snaps could come down to Thomas and Givens. By now, the organization knows Thomas’ limitations as a pass rusher. We still don’t know what type of player Givens is, though. After a rash of injuries to the defensive line, Givens played ten snaps against Seattle in Week 17, where he recorded one quarterback pressure and a run stop. Good luck coming away with a strong take after watching Givens play so few snaps last year.
The unknown makes it easy to get excited about Givens. His quickness and pass-rushing upside make it easier to imagine Givens having an opportunity, especially when the 49ers have the game under control. Those fourth-quarter blowouts will come in handy when it comes to developing younger talent on the roster such as Givens. Will he emerge as a surprise starter? That’s unlikely. I think we’re a year away from Givens making a real contribution to the team, but he could become a player that carves out a role for himself on passing downs — which should be Givens’ goal in 2020.