Now that the 53 man roster is all but official, we can step back and see what kind of team the 49ers are hoping to be in 2021. As I looked at the collective group for today’s Stats & Eggs podcast, one thing became crystal clear: This team is going to absolutely punch people in the mouth. No matter which position group you look at, you see a tough, physical unit that will push you from point A to point B against your will. Exactly the way Kyle Shanahan likes to win football games.
The two groups, in particular, that stand out to me are the defensive line and the wide receivers. The sheer number of defensive linemen/edge rushers on this team alone, 11 if you’re counting, speaks to how deep and talented this group is. That depth allows the 49ers to rotate players frequently while keeping their big guns fresh for the critical situations in the game.
It’s one thing to try and convert a 3rd and 6 against Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford. It’s another thing altogether when you’re facing Bosa, Armstead, and Ford when they’ve been able to get full rest on the sidelines because the replacements are still kicking ass. Keeping those guys fresh is imperative because the entire defense is built around pressure from the defensive line. The 49ers can clearly do that, so the unit should scare the bejesus out of opposing quarterbacks all year long.
As for the wide receivers, you could argue that no team in the league has a more physical wide receiver room than the 49ers. Tennessee might have the two most physically imposing starters in AJ Brown and Julio Jones. Still, from top to bottom, I’d put the physicality of the 49ers’ pass-catchers up against anyone. Good luck to anyone defender trying to tackle Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Trent Sherfield, or Jalen Hurd with a full head of steam.
The group’s similar body type and play styles tell me Kyle Shanahan wants to be able to use interchangeable parts at any time. He wants his receivers to threaten the defense at every level - especially out of the backfield. Given the variability at quarterback, this is an incredibly useful tool to use to help keep the offense on schedule. They all should be an asset in the ground game as well, which we all know is the key to Kyle Shanahan’s heart.
As a whole, the team is set up to play very complimentary football throughout the year. The plan most weeks will be to move the chains with the running game and gash defenses with play-action passes. Hopefully, that leads to points, which will cause other teams to become one-dimensional and play right into the hands of the pass rushers up front.
If not, the defense will still be good enough to force offenses to go on long drives to score points, which will keep the game close enough for Kyle Shanahan to scheme up enough offense to win most of the time.
That’s the plan, anyway. Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Fortunately, more often than not, the 49ers will be the ones throwing the punches.