DLine So Fine: Discussing the 49ers Defensive Line heading into 2020

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

After a great 2019 campaign, I am super excited to see the San Francisco 49ers Defensive Line do work again when we finally get back to football. They have arguably the most talented Defensive Line in the NFL, and that still holds true with the trade of arguably their best defender DeForest Buckner to the Colts. Buckner needed to get paid, so I completely understand why the moved on (Colts ended up giving him a 4 year $84M deal).

Personally, I would have committed to Buckner over Arik Armstead, who the 49ers paid big money to this off season, but I also understand that paying Armstead made more sense as he is more versatile, being able to play the Edge, a 4i technique (3-4 End), and a traditional DT (which he could mainly be used in obvious passing downs), where as Buckner is more of your prototypical DT, that could be placed as a 4i. Nonetheless, I am a fan of Armstead and I hope he has more seasons like he did in 2019.

Part of the reason the 49ers traded Buckner was so they could draft South Carolina Defensive Tackle Javon Kinlaw, who looks to be a solid combination of run stuffing ability and a pass rush threat in the NFL. In my opinion I see lots of versatility in Kinlaw as well, and I think he has potential to be a solid 3-4 End as well, therefore it may make sense for the 49ers to transition to a Hybrid scheme in the future.

On the other edge of the DLine the 49ers have a young superstar in Nick Bosa, who was named Defensive Rookie of the Year last season as he had 47 total tackles, 9 sacks, 16 TFLs, and 25 QB hits. With another great year in 2020, I am sure he will want to restructure his contract to get better money as he is becoming the face of the franchise.

Now here is where things get interesting. There are two more solid Defensive Ends on this defense, Dee Ford, who got a huge contract extension after his trade from Kansas City (5 years $87.5M), and former third overall pick Solomon Thomas, who with 93 total tackles and 6 sacks in his first 3 seasons is starting to look a bit like a bust. Like Armstead and Kinlaw, I think Thomas would be better as a 3-4 End and if you put him beside Nick Bosa it would make his job a lot easier. Ford on the other hand is getting paid like a starting Defensive End, so I would like to see him start more than 2 games in 2020.

Armstead, Kinlaw, Ford, Thomas, and Bosa are going to be the main five on the Defensive Line this year but they also have some solid players behind them that can contribute. The interesting thing about the players behind them is that most of them would fit better in a 3-4 scheme than a 4-3, which is why I strongly think Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh should consider to running his Cover 3 coverage out of a Hybrid fronts.

My projected Defensive line Depth Chart for the 49ers going into the 2020 season based off there current 4-3 scheme should look like this:

Edge: Ford, Thomas, Taylor, Kongbo

DT: Armstead, Blair, Street, Givens

NT: Kinlaw, Henry, Jones, Daniels

Edge: Bosa, Barrett, Hyder

And Just for fun if we are looking at my Hybrid 3-4 front the depth chart would look something like this:

Edge: Ford, Kongbo

3-4 End: Armstead, Blair, Taylor

NT: Kinlaw, Henry, Jones, Daniels

3-4 End: Thomas, Street, Givens, Hyder

Edge: Bosa, Barrett


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