Why the Interior of the 49ers Defensive Line is Their Strength

Edge rush was the original strength of the San Francisco 49ers defensive line, but entering 2021 it has shifted towards the interior.
Publish date:

2019 saw the strength of the 49ers defensive line on the edge.

Whenever the 49ers needed an effective pass rush, it was DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead anchoring the middle to allow Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to explode off the edge. Once Ford missed time, the 49ers saw their defensive line fail to reach the quarterback and a drop off in overall pressure. Edge was their clear-cut strength. But 2021 gives way to a new bread-and-butter for them. 

The strength of the 49ers defensive line this season lies with the interior. 

Going into this season, the edge rush of the 49ers has a ton of variables. Though Bosa is set to return, it is not a lock that he will be back to his former self. On the other side, Ford cannot be relied upon by any measure. No matter how healthy the 49ers say he is, his history is massively against him. Samson Ebukam might actually be the only constant on the edge and even he might not be adequate enough.

Interior is where all the talent is allocated to for the 49ers. Arik Armstead is obviously the most known impactful player there, but it is the players who spend their time exclusively there that should catch your eye. Javon Kinlaw is entering his sophomore season. He should be expected to increase his impact by at least a bit, or at least that is the hope. Then there is 2020 standout Kevin Givens who can be an intriguing player to see potentially leap this season. Then of course you have D.J. Jones who has always been a solid player in the middle along with Kentavius Street.

The player I believe everyone should be excited about is the addition of Maurice Hurst. I think he can carve himself out a serious role on the defensive line. Massively underutilized with the Raiders, Hurst can find himself dominant in every game. Not only because of the surrounding talent he has never had, but the tutelage of Kris Kocurek. You mix all of these players along with the coaching and the expected blitzes from DeMeco Ryans, and you have yourself a defense that is built to explode at the interior.

That is not to say the edge will be measly. I just think the best bet right now of where the 49ers' dominance will be is at the interior. Just imagine a blitzing Fred Warner through the A- or B-gap with any pairing of those names I have mentioned lurking for the quarterback. And if Bosa can get close to form, then the defensive line will be unfair. 

It is a new style of defense for the 49ers in 2021, but overall the same suffocating style.