The 49ers have to make their final cuts by 1 p.m. PT on August 31. All NFL franchises have to trim their team from 80 players to the final 53-man roster. Last season, San Francisco relied on an undermanned defensive line to perform week in and week out.
Now, the Niners are faced with answering how many defensive linemen can make the team? Having great depth at defensive tackle and end is a good problem. Contrary to it being hard choosing who gets cut.
Maurice Hurst injured his ankle and is expected to miss a month. So we narrow our focus on who is best suited to replace Hurst, Kentavius Street, or Zach Kerr with that in mind.
Each player is on the opposite end of the spectrum in their career. Kerr is coming off one of his most productive seasons in his career, including a career-high nine quarterback hits. Street fought through injury tribulations early in his NFL career. Last year, he had his first season with a healthy amount of snaps, and his performance did not impress.
Here are my thoughts on what each player brings to the 49ers.
Kentavius Streets’ NFL career started with misfortune as he tore his ACL in his pro day, causing him to miss his rookie year. And continued to miss time the following year on Injured Reserve through 14 weeks.
According to Pro Football Reference, Street only played 38 defensive snaps in 2019. He appeared in 15 games last season, playing 37% of the Niners’ defensive snaps. In 2020, his availability improved, but the production was not there. He only registered one tackle for loss with no QB hits or sacks.
Street has been one of the many names wreaking havoc during training camp. But, unfortunately, his would-be lone sack was negated by an egregious penalty last season against the Saints. He was literally penalized for tackling Drew Brees.
Street has the tools to help this defensive line become a great pass-rush unit. In the second clip, you see Street’s athleticism as he gets a good dip on the offensive lineman for the sack. The bar is set high for Street to have a breakout season.
Street made his presence felt in the win against the Chargers. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus gave Street a grade of 29.1 out of 100 against the run in 2020. Not only was Street beating blocks in pass sets, but he also showed he could do some dirty work. In the first clip, he absorbs the double-team so Jonas Griffith can fit the run.
The second clip is a display of one of my takeaways that the defensive line played so well. Kevin Givens blows up the run, and Street defeats his block to get the tackle for loss from the backside.
Lastly, Street stands up the right guard and reaches out to make the tackle. Street looks to be an improved player. San Francisco’s remanned pass-rush looks strong, but most of the edge players have been hobbled. The Niners need all the help they can get. Street has to show can be effective against the run and pass.
Kerr is an eight-year veteran, that contributed in over 80 games. Although, Kerr has been a journeyman. He is now on his fifth team in nine years. But, most importantly, Kerr joined a new franchise in each of the last four years.
On the other hand, Kerr was the highest-graded defender(Pff-subscription required) on the Panthers last year.
Kerr’s primary asset when rushing the passer is his power. He did not get the pass-rush production he wanted to in the preseason. His ability to get pressure is shown above. Kerr needs an above-average game against the Raiders when rushing the passer.
Kerr is definitely stouter against the run than Street is. My favorite rep when watching Kerr is in the second clip where he Rips across the center’s face making him whiff. Kerr’s agility is slept on. Along with embarrassing the center, Kerr shows his effort on the last clip against the WR screen.
The scenario of the Niners retaining both is near impossible. San Francisco is loaded at defensive tackle. All of the defensive tackles play the run well, and that is Kerr’s best feature.
Even though Street does not have a productive pass-rush career, he still has the edge as a pass-rusher. He’s more athletic, making him better suited to play outside, and he has more upside rushing the passer. But, again, Kerr needs a big game rushing the passer against the Raiders to impress coaches.
Will Zach Kerr or Kentavius Street replace Hurst?
Who replaces Mo Hurst?
This poll is closed