Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers


PFF: 49ers have strong edge-rushing depth, but D-line interior remains ‘potential weak point’

Jun 14, 2022 at 11:24 AM--



Samson Ebukam, Drake Jackson, Charles Omenihu, Kerry Hyder, and Kemoko Turay will all compete for playing time opposite San Francisco 49ers phenom, defensive end Nick Bosa. That's a lot of depth along the edge. That depth helped the 49ers unit rank among Pro Football Focus' "Elite" defensive lines in the league. However, San Francisco comes in at No. 6, behind the Los Angeles Rams, Washington Commanders, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What's the reason for the 49ers not ranking higher on the list? It has to do with the uncertainty along the interior of the defensive line. While analyst Ben Linsey called Bosa "one of the best all-around edge defenders in the NFL," there are question marks between the bookends.

"Arik Armstead is expected to move back to a primarily interior role, where he's been better as a pass rusher than run defender over the last four seasons," notes Linsey.

Pro Football Focus recently listed Armstead among its top edge rushers in the NFL—at No. 17.

Another potential question mark is third-year defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who appeared in just four games in 2021 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

"With Javon Kinlaw yet to establish himself as an above-average starter on the interior, defensive tackle stands out as the one potential weak point of this unit," wrote Linsey.

It's noteworthy that the young defensive tackle feels healthier than he has in years. That bodes well for his chances of making an impact in 2022.

"I'm feeling amazing," Kinlaw said in March as his rehab continued. "Really, honest, I've had nothing but ups, no downs. Knock on wood. Everything has been progressing the right way. As far as from a health standpoint, I already feel healthier than I was last year when I was on the field, so I'm just excited to really get back out there and just be able to really showcase what a healthy Javon Kinlaw can do for this organization."

While Kinlaw was involved in some offseason drama, the 49ers are hoping to see the player reach the potential they envisioned when making him the No. 14 overall pick in 2020.

"I already got way more knee [flexibility] than I ever had in my life," Kinlaw added. "Hip flexibility—I've got more hip flexibility than I ever had in my life. The things that I do now, I've probably never been able to do in my life, so it's just really exciting."

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