San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch was on KNBR Friday morning, providing updates about the team. The lovefest for rookie safety Talanoa Hufanaga continued. Lynch was asked about Hufanaga making an impact this season:
“Yeah, he does. Both in special teams and on defense. Opportunities in this league are earned. That’s exactly what he’s done. This guy is vying for a starting job.”
That’s high praise, considering Jaquiski Tartt just returned from the PUP list, and Tavon Wilson had been running with the first-team defense all week.
Lynch said Chargers DE Uchenna Nwosu, Hufanaga’s teammate at USC, came up to him last week during joint practices and said, “I just wanna let you know that you have the best football player I’ve ever played with.”
Lynch, when asked about the quarterbacks, said the Niners aren’t revealing much during preseason games:
“If we are in a situation like that, yes, it’s difficult to prepare for. We haven’t shown a lot in the preseason, as well, in terms of the things we can do with both Trey and Jimmy. But that’s not only for us. That’s league-wide. You really don’t know, going into the first couple of games, what you’re going to see.
But yeah, that is something that we kind of are looking forward to, the amount of time that people are going to have to put in, preparing for each quarterback.”
Every defensive session the Lion, Eagles, and the rest of the Niners schedule spends preparing for two quarterbacks or what they think the 49ers will do on offense is a win for San Francisco.
Lynch said the evaluations would continue through the end of the preseason: “We’re still looking for the answers, and we’re going to throw these guys out there a little bit on Sunday and see if we find out a little more. You just take in as much information, and you see who gives us the best chance.”
Trading your depth up front?
Lynch said the 49ers are fielding calls from other teams who are interested in their defensive line. That felt inevitable. Lynch said, “I have concerns about the health of everyone else on opposing teams when they’re playing us,” when asked if there are any concerns about his defensive line depth this year.
Lynch said the defensive line has a 2019 feel:
“This is very reminiscent of the 2019 defensive front, to me. We’re strong at the front line, and Nick has looked great in his return. Kinlaw came back this week in practice and has looked really good. But we’re also extremely deep at that position, and believe me; we’re taking a lot of calls because people are interested in some of our depth. But we’re hanging on to it because we want to be a group — we want to be strong there.
And not only on the front line. We want to come at them in waves. And those guys’ job is to wreak havoc. We’ve got a whole mentality there to just get after people, and those guys, I believe we’re going to have the group to do that this year.”
Don’t expect the 49ers to trade anyone any time soon, though:
Yeah, we can, but, like I said, I think we’re going to be a little greedy there, and I think all those guys — it’s nice to have guys in the bullpen there. We want closers, and setup guys, and all that stuff, to make a baseball analogy. We want that all at our disposal, and I don’t think you can have enough good players at that position.”
You’re always an injury or two away from not having much depth, so trading a young, promising player would feel like you’d be a prisoner of the moment. Instead, you want your defensive line to remain fresh throughout the season. How do you do that? By having a constant rotation.
Plus, most of the players on the defensive line are in their early to mid-20s and are still developing. I’m holding onto guys like Kevin Givens unless a team obnoxiously overpays.
Hurd isn’t going anywhere
When asked about the 49ers receiving core, Lynch brought up Jalen Hurd, who practiced the past two days and is on pace to play Sunday:
“If Jalen Hurd can be out there — there’s a reason why we drafted Jalen Hurd. This is a critical stretch for Hurd. If he can practice three days/play on Sunday,/feel OK on Monday, he’ll be on the roster.
He hasn’t played in the first couple of years for good reason. He’s had legitimate injuries. But he’s been out there. We’ve had two really hard practices. And he’s done a great job in them. And it would be a really good thing for our team if he could be out there.”
That sounds like the 49ers are giving Hurd every opportunity possible to prove himself. That could mean something as little as showing that he can practice for three days in a row, play a game, and not have a setback the next day.
If your receivers are Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Mohamed Sanu, Trent Sherfield, and Jauan Jennings, to me, you can roster a player who is as talented as Hurd. He’s worth the wait.