Projecting the 49ers' Starting Lineup on Defense

The 49ers offense ranked 8th in yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed last season.
Nov 19, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (left) talks with defensive end Nick Bosa (right) during the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (left) talks with defensive end Nick Bosa (right) during the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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The 49ers offense ranked 8th in yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed last season. Here are the players who are projected to start on defense in 2024.

Defensive end: Nick Bosa.

Can Nick Bosa play more than 75 percent of the defense's snaps this season? The 49ers need more out of him for what they pay him.

Defensive tackle: Javon Hargrave.

This could be Hargrave's final season on the team if he doesn't start living up to his lucrative contract.

Defensive tackle: Maliek Collins.

Collins will replace Arik Armstead and split time with Jordan Elliott, who replaces Javon Kinlaw.

Defensive end: Yetur Gross-Matos.

Leonard Floyd will play on passing downs such as second and long or third and anything. But the 49ers run defense is a problem and Gross-Matos is objectively better against the run than Floyd, so Gross-Matos should start.

Linebacker: De'Vondre Campbell.

Dre Greenlaw will start once he returns from a torn Achilles midseason. Until then, Campbell will see if he can hold off second-year linebacker Dee Winters who played well in OTAs and minicamp.

Linebacker: Fred Warner.

He's the best player on the defense and he has missed just one game in his entire career.

Cornerback: Charvarius Ward.

He's the most underrated player on the defense and he's entering the final season of his contract. The 49ers should give him an extension. He's a top 5 cornerback in the NFL.

Cornerback: Deommodore Lenoir.

He also is entering the final season of his contract and he probably won't get extended because the 49ers can't pay everybody.

Nickelback: Renardo Green.

The 49ers wanted Isaiah Oliver to be their nickelback last year, but he failed and Lenoir was forced to replace him. The 49ers' first choice seems to be to dedicate one player to the nickel spot, and this season that player will be rookie Renardo Green who played extremely well in OTAs and minicamp.

Safety: Ji'Ayir Brown.

He intercepted Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl and seems to have a bright future.

Safety: Talanoa Hufanga.

He tore his ACL last season but should be ready to start Week 1. If he returns to his pre-injury form, he could become too expensive for the 49ers to re-sign him next year.


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Grant Cohn

GRANT COHN

Grant Cohn has covered the San Francisco 49ers daily since 2011. He spent the first nine years of his career with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat where he wrote the Inside the 49ers blog and covered famous coaches and athletes such as Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick and Patrick Willis. In 2012, Inside the 49ers won Sports Blog of the Year from the Peninsula Press Club. In 2020, Cohn joined FanNation and began writing All49ers. In addition, he created a YouTube channel which has become the go-to place on YouTube to consume 49ers content. Cohn's channel typically generates roughly 3.5 million viewers per month, while the 49ers' official YouTube channel generates roughly 1.5 million viewers per month. Cohn live streams almost every day and posts videos hourly during the football season. Cohn is committed to asking the questions that 49ers fans want answered, and providing the most honest and interactive coverage in the country. His loyalty is to the reader and the viewer, not the team or any player or coach. Cohn is a new-age multimedia journalist with an old-school mentality, because his father is Lowell Cohn, the legendary sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle from 1979 to 1993. The two have a live podcast every Tuesday. Grant Cohn grew up in Oakland and studied English Literature at UCLA from 2006 to 2010. He currently lives in Oakland with his wife.