clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL Execs on Ebukam and Omenihu: You are going to find out whether those guys were good or products of that defense

The Athletic’s Mike Sando reached out to multiple NFL executives to get their takes on how each team did this offseason.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

After the first couple of weeks of free agency, we have a good feel for how each team did. The Athletic’s Mike Sando has an annual article where he speaks with executives around the NFL to get their thoughts on each team.

Here’s what the NFL is saying about the 49ers, who lost a pair of quality edge rushers in exchange for a high-riced defensive tackle:

“What they have continually done is keep a strength a strength,” an exec said of the 49ers’ defensive line. “They are at an advantage because of what Kyle Shanahan can do with their offense and their offensive line. Then they say, ‘We are going to build our defensive line and everything else behind it, we can back-fill because we are just going to play coverage and get pressure with four.’”

We often give Shanahan credit for his work on the offensive side of the ball without giving him his due for succeeding with spare parts along the offensive line.

Trent Williams is one of the five best football players in the sport. But, outside of him, only Aaron Banks is a top-50 pick along the offensive line. And San Francisco has played with the majority of Day 3 picks year after year. That won’t be any different this season, where Shanahan and the offense lost a first-rounder in Mike McGlinchey, although he did not perform to his draft status.

The way the 49ers roster is currently constructed is proof that there are multiple ways to build your roster for sustained success. It’s also proof that if you miss on multiple first round picks in a short span, it’s not necessarily a death knell for your future:

Here’s what Sando said about the two edge rushers the 49ers lost:

“Ebukam and Omenihu, you are going to find out whether those guys were good at all or just products of that defense,” another exec said. “Those are the kinds of guys you improve, recycle and move on from when you are in the 49ers’ current cycle. They know their formula. It is just whether they can get over the hump.”

The 49ers have a formula and it works. There’s no denying Ebukam and Omenihu played so well that they put themselves out of the Niners price range, but the latter’s 2022 season did not seem like a fluke.

In the Niners’ eyes, we’ll be comparing Hargrave’s ‘23 production to the duo of Ebukam and Omenihu. The team is putting more of an emphasis on interior pressure, which makes, considering all quarterbacks are affected the most from up the middle.

Replacing Azeez Al-Shaair won’t be easy, either. That sounds like a stretch given that he was the third linebacker, but the 49ers didn’t miss a beat in 2021 defensively when they lost Dre Greenlaw for most of the regular season. Al-Shaair was fantastic insurance in case of injury.

But the team is likely projecting another strong season from Talanoa Hufanga as he gains more experience. And with consistent play at nickel, your LB3 becomes an afterthought.