The San Francisco 49ers’ defense has come a long way since head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh took over their current roles. The Niners’ defense ranked 23rd in DVOA in 2018 and made a giant leap last season with the additions of elite pass rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford.
San Francisco’s defense jumped up to No. 2 in DVOA in 2019, when the unit finished second against the pass and averaged 3 sacks per game.
PFF is expecting the 49ers’ defense to be dominant again in 2020, ranking the group as the best in the NFL heading into the new season:
“While we were hoping for the Niners to snag either Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb with the 13th overall pick, they did draft the top interior defensive lineman in the class in Javon Kinlaw. The South Carolina product has some incredible pop behind his hands and is an impressive athlete for a human of his size. And even with a relative lack of pass-rush moves, he still managed to produce a 90.7 pass-rush grade in 2019, third in the FBS.
The secondary is really where the big improvement took place last year, and Richard Sherman‘s play was a big reason why. At 31 years of age and just a couple of years removed from a torn Achilles, Sherman was the highest-graded cornerback in coverage last season. He allowed 35 yards or less in all but one regular-season game, routinely shutting down his side of the field.”
It will be tough to replace DeForest Buckner’s production, but San Francisco has enough depth on the defensive line to come close. Anthony Treash mentions the addition of defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, but the rookie struggled over the last week of practice. Considering how strange of an offseason it was due to the pandemic, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kinlaw begin to find his footing as the season progresses.
The secondary has future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman leading the way, with K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon behind him. Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Williams round out the back end of the defense. The linebackers are led by Fred Warner, who is turning into one of the best in the game at his position.
San Francisco’s pass rush should be dominant again in 2020. Bosa is a year older and should be even better than he was during his rookie season. Ford, Arik Armstead and D.J. Jones round out a deep unit that will cause opposing offensive lines plenty of problems.
The 49ers had 48 total sacks in 2019. Do you think they will beat that total in 2020?