How often can you say the No. 2 overall pick in the draft exceeded expectations? Nick Bosa’s rookie season didn’t get off to a hot start after he went down during a training camp practice, and that felt like the world froze. Nobody knew what to do while Bosa laid there on the ground. This came after Bosa made Joe Staley look like a mere mortal.
Fast forward to the regular season, and, despite playing his way into shape for the first couple of games, Bosa had seven sacks in the first seven games of the season.
To put into perspective how often Bosa was around the quarterback as a rookie, he led the NFL in QB hits, was second in QB knockdowns and hurries, and third in pressures, per Sports Info Solutions among all defensive lineman.
Using their total points saved metric, Bosa saved an eye-popping 15 more points than the player who finished in second place — some guy named Aaron Donald.
You remember Bosa being dominant, but he was better than you thought. There was a reason Bosa was one of the favorites for Defensive Player of the Year heading into his second season.
Age: 23 (Turns 24 October 23)
Accrued seasons: 1
Weight: 266 pounds
Bosa is entering the third year of his four-year rookie deal. His cap number is $9.2 million for 2021. If Bosa performs as expected this season, he could be in line for an extension after this season. That could be the next contract the 49ers will deal with, especially if we’re looking at a double-digit sack season.
Will injuries be the story of Bosa’s career?
The only thing preventing Bosa from being a perennial All-Pro are injuries. I haven’t seen a rookie win as effortlessly as Bosa did during 2019 in....ever? The knocks on Bosa as a rookie were, “don’t give up contain to Russell Wilson” or “don’t jump offsides once every six games.”
They were few and far between. After suffering an ACL injury during the second quarter of Week 2, Bosa said to “tell them I’m gonna be better.”
To start his season, Bosa had a nagging ankle injury. Before that, he suffered a hamstring injury. During his short time in the NFL, Bosa has been no stranger to the injury report.
That was the case at Ohio State, too. Bosa suffered a groin injury in his third game of the 2018 season that cut his season short. Bosa said that injury was far more severe than the media believed, and it was “the worst pain I’ve felt.”
Bosa also suffered a severe core injury during his time with the Buckeyes.
These injuries have been consistent with Bosa. The 49ers know all about his history. There’s no denying Bosa’s greatness, but it’s impossible to talk about the player without mentioning a lengthy injury history that dates back to high school.
What to expect in 2021
The big question entering the season will be how healthy Bosa is and how long it’ll take him to get his legs underneath him. If Bosa enters training camp around 70-75%, it may take him a couple of months to work his way up to 100%.
Remember, those sacks in ‘19 came in punches. Bosa had one sack during Week 1, then didn’t get his second and third sacks until Week 5. Of course, there are many different variables this time around, but a slow start could be in store for the player coming off a torn ACL.
Once Bosa gets going, we’ve only seen him be dominant. Since that’s the case, that’s what we’re all expecting to see. What I’m most fascinated to watch is how Bosa affects the rest of the defensive line.
Is he the key to unlocking Javon Kinlaw? Samson Ebukam’s first year as a full-time pass rusher will be full of 1-on-1 opportunities. Arik Armstead rushing predominantly from the inside on passing downs is how he earned a big contract.
DeMeco Ryans can be far more aggressive, knowing he has one of the best pass rushers in the NFL at his disposal. The only question is whether Ryans will have Bosa for 16 games.