Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans singles out three players ready to make a leap this season

Jun 2, 2021 at 3:29 PM--

The 49ers already have a slew of established veteran standouts on defense, with players such as Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Jason Verrett, Jimmie Ward, and Arik Armstead leading what should be a talented mix. But there may be three more players ready to join that group this season, according to defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

Ryans was asked during a media session on Wednesday which players he feels are in a position to make a big leap once the season gets underway. The first player he singled out was defensive tackle Kevin Givens, who has shown some flashes in a reserve role since joining the 49ers as an undrafted rookie out of Penn State in 2019. Givens had 19 tackles and a sack in 13 games last season after playing in just one game as a rookie.

"I look at a young guy like Kevin Givens and the way he's been working," Ryans said. "It's been outstanding to see him work. He's getting better and better each day."

Givens was arrested in February on a charge of second-degree assault, but that charge was recently dropped.

Ryans also gave some extended praise to second-year defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, which was discussed on 49ers Webzone earlier. Kinlaw had 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one interception in 14 games (12 starts) last season after being selected by the 49ers in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft but had some ups and downs after going through an offseason that was limited due to league restrictions surrounding COVID-19. But now that Kinlaw has a year under his belt, Ryans expects to see much more from the talented second-year lineman once the 2021 season gets underway.

"He's going to take a huge jump this year... He's been doing an awesome job," Ryans said. "I can already see how much better he's gotten in the couple weeks we've been together."

The third player Ryans mentioned was linebacker Dre Greenlaw. That's encouraging news, seeing as how Greenlaw has already made his presence felt over his first two NFL seasons with 178 tackles, ten tackles for loss, and one of the biggest plays in recent 49ers history.

"Just how he's developed and how he's gotten better throughout these OTAs, I'm fired up to see his growth this year," Ryans said.

But while Ryans feels those three players may be next in line for great things, he made it a point to say that players like Bosa, Verrett, and Armstead are still ahead of the pack. And it will be those players driving the bus on defense for the 49ers this season as they attempt to rebound from an injury-riddled 2020 campaign.

"Guys who have been here, leaders who will help guide this defense -- this defense is theirs, and I'm just here to help them go out to perform as good as they possibly can," Ryans said.

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