Nick Bosa entered the league in 2019 as a heralded prospect with a boatload of potential that was apparent to anyone who watched him play at Ohio State. However, I don’t think anyone expected how quickly that potential would be realized and how soon Bosa would enter the discussion among the top players at his position during a rookie year that saw him post record numbers for an edge rusher in their rookie season.
Fast forward to 2021, over a year removed from a devastating ACL injury that ended Bosa’s 2020 season in Week 2. The 3rd year edge rusher has not only managed to get back to the level of play we were accustomed to seeing prior to the injury, when he set an NFL record for pressures by a rookie (14 more than any other rookie since the stat has been recorded) he has flat out eclipsed it.
Let’s take a look at Bosa’s numbers in a full 16 game season from 2019:
QB Hits: 18
Tackle For Loss: 16
These are Bosa’s numbers through 10 games in 2021
QB Hits: 13
Tackle For Loss: 15
While the pressure number will be hard to exceed, Bosa has already passed his sack total from 2019 and is on pace to blow by his tackle for loss and QB hit numbers as well. On the surface, I could see how this may not impress some. Is a player in their third year and all the experience that comes with that outshining their own rookie performance? Of course, that makes sense, right?
However, in Bosa’s case, two factors at play really demonstrate how impressive his 2021 season has been this far. Number one, the bar that was set was already extremely high. Bosa’s 2019 season was by all accounts dominant and would be hard to match by most players in any year of their career. Secondly, the injury he returned from last season has regularly been a career-altering injury that takes professional athletes years to recover from and regain their previous form.
Prior to the start of the season, Bosa mentioned that he felt lighter and quicker than he had in years past, and when he was asked about that this was his response was, “I feel like I’m moving better than I have,” which again is just mind-blowing when you account for the fact he suffered a major knee injury a little over a year ago. However, this is a testament to not only modern medicine, but how hard Bosa worked in his rehab to get back to the shape, he is currently in.
Bosa’s physical abilities tend to overshadow just how gifted of a player he is when it comes to the mental aspect of trench warfare and how much football IQ plays into besting opposing linemen en route to harassing quarterbacks on opposing teams. Bosa recently said that when he was a rookie, his focus was simply beating opposing linemen.
“My rookie year, I was just out there rushing, trying to win every time, it worked well, but now I’m really getting a hang of how the sack leaders in the game do it.” Bosa also referenced playing “mind games” with opposing linemen this season, a nod to the incredible technique he has displayed as a pass rusher this season, which has regularly caused fits for opposing linemen.
Lastly, I would just like to point out that while Bosa is critically acclaimed league-wide for his exceptional pass-rushing prowess, he has also been a stalwart against the run this season as well. Bosa currently leads the entire league in Tackles For Loss with 16 and is regularly blowing up opposing rushing plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
So with seven games left to play, it’s not quite clear just how Bosa’s final numbers will stack up against his spectacular rookie season, but one thing is for certain. The 49ers have a generational talent at one of the most important positions in the entire sport and a player who is by all measures improving by the day. In addition, Bosa is due for a hefty contract extension in the near future, and it’s fair to wonder if the 49ers brain trust will be handing over a blank check when that time comes.