The 49ers swung for the fences on the first day of the offseason by signing the number one free agent, Javon Hargrave. Adding the best available defensive tackle to pair with Arik Armstead on the interior sparked speculation that the defensive line could be comparable to the vaunted 2019 line. Drake Jackson was tabbed for the EDGE role, in his second season out of USC, opposite Nick Bosa.
The 2019 line consisted of Bosa, Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Dee Ford. By season’s end, Bosa finished with 45 pressures, Armstead finished with 35, Buckner finished with 20, and Ford finished with 16 in only 11 games played. The foursome combined for 33 sacks in 16 games. The 49ers would play in the Super Bowl that season.
The depth behind the foursome would consist of Ronald Blair, Solomon Thomas, D.J. Jones, and Sheldon Day. The group behind the starters would combine for eight sacks and 24 pressures, according to Pro Football Reference.
Fast-forward to 2023, the depth consists of Kevin Givens, Kerry Hyder Jr., Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, and Javon Kinlaw.
Bosa was asked about his thoughts on the current defensive line group following the Week 1 victory by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, and he praised both the starters and depth:
“Yeah, I mean, we would watch [Hargrave] with Philly, and I think between him and Chris Jones and obviously Aaron Donald, it’s pretty close on who affects games as much from the inside.”
“And to add him with Arik [Armstead], it’s going to help us on the edge a lot.”
Bosa followed those comments with praise for the entire group:
“I kind of say this every year, just because of how confident I am in our [front office and coaches] and the players that we have.”
“But adding [Javon] Hargrave and Clelin [Ferrell] and a few of the other guys, I just knew that we were going to be back talent-wise to 2019. Or, I think, better even with depth. It was tough to not be a part of it [during training camp] because every year we’re expecting to go the whole way.”
The comments come on the heels of a 24 pressure, five sack, and 16 QB hurry performance against Pittsburgh, according to PFF. Jackson doubled his sack total from last season with three. Armstead finished with five pressures, a QB hit, and four hurries in 22 true pass rush sets. Ferrell, Bryant, Givens, and Hyder Jr. each had two pressures.
The defensive line was impressive, but it is a one-week sample size. Time will tell whether this line can reach the heights of 2019, but it’s a damn good start.
Do you believe this current defensive line could surpass the 2019 line?
Can this line be better than 2019?