With the 49ers’ 53-man roster all but settled, it’s time to see what their depth chart would look like heading into the Week 1 matchup with the steelers. Now we can jump to the defensive end after projecting offensive depth chart.
The 49ers’ defense would have largely the same starting group as last year, save for a few big changes on the defensive front.
Insert Javon Hargrave in the middle of the defensive line gives San Francisco a new destructive force at the top of its depth chart. He also put the team in a financial situation where they had to come off the disabled list. samson ebukam and Carlos Omenihu walk into free agency.
The departures of Ebukam and Omenihu left the 49ers weak on the edge, and that continued to be exacerbated by prolonged resistance from DE. Nick Bosa. Bosa is still in the middle of contract negotiations and has not reported back to the team. He is on the reserve/no-show list with a week to go before the start of the season.
With a thin defensive end group and no Bosa at the top for now, we’re trying to project what San Francisco’s defensive depth chart will look like for Week 1:
Almost everyone in this group should spend considerable time as part of a defensive line rotation. If Kinlaw can stay healthy and productive, this would be an incredibly deep position for San Francisco. If he struggles, his depth seems a lot less and they may need to turn to veteran TY McGill, who is on the practice squad.
A backup rotation that includes some combination of Ferrell, Jackson, Bryant and Hyder looks much better with Bosa at the top. Bosa’s return would also allow Hyder more flexibility to play inside, where he played a lot last season. Regardless of Bosa’s status, the 49ers badly need at least one member of this group to step up this season and provide some help.
The 49ers have plenty of depth at LB, and their go-to backup in Will’s place may come down to matchups. Winters drew comparisons to GM John Lynch’s Greenlaw, and it became clear why during the preseason. For now, Flannigan-Fowles gets the nod on the depth chart because he is a veteran who has been with the team since 2019.
Graham was really impressive in preseason and used the green dot to call out the defense. Perhaps the club feels more secure with a veteran there, which could give Flannigan-Fowles an advantage. Graham was too good in the preseason to pass up as a backup option to Mike.
1: Jalen Graham
2: oren burks
3: Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
Graham gets the nod over Burks for Sam’s starting job. Burks hasn’t had much defensive success as a pro and had to deal with injuries during the preseason. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the 49ers beat those two, but Graham was impressive enough in his first preseason to be considered a starter in basic packages.
This group has more depth than last season, which is good. Our current iteration is the one where Lenoir doesn’t move into the subpackage space. If that ends up being the case, then it could be Thomas who starts on the outside, given how often teams are in nickel now. More on nickel shortly.
1: Isaiah Oliver
2: Deommodore Lenoir
3: Samuel Womack
This could change throughout the year based on matchups, according to defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Oliver didn’t have a great preseason, but the team has publicly leaned into its need for a bigger cornerback and Oliver certainly fills that role. Most likely, he will start there and the team will make a trade if necessary. It’s important to remember that they made a change in Week 3 in space last year and then they did it again in Week 6 when Emmanuel Mosley get hurt Another year with some changes in nickel would not be a surprise.
1: Tashaun Gipson
2: Ji’Ayir Brown
Keep an eye on Brown’s usage this year to see if and when the team deploys the rookie out of Penn State. If he plays a lot of third safety early in the year and plays well, he could possibly pass Gipson on the depth chart.
If Brown is playing well, he could move Odum down the depth chart with Gipson backing Hufanga. For now, veteran Odum is the one behind Hufanga until we see what Brown offers in the way of safety depth.