Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Why John Lynch is excited to see 49ers’ D-line, rebuilt secondary punish opponents

Sep 10, 2022 at 7:20 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers will be without Jimmie Ward when they face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday. The team will be without their talented safety for at least the first four games.

"Just first of all, you can't understate not having Jimmie Ward for four weeks," general manager John Lynch said Friday on KNBR. "That's definitely a shame. He's, I think, one of the more underrated players in our league. What he allows us to do because he has ... he came into the league as a corner, he has corner skills, he's an excellent man-to-man [corner]. So it really gives [defensive coordinator] DeMeco [Ryans] a lot of freedom."

Lynch doesn't sound too concerned about his defense in Ward's absence, though. That's because he believes in the revamped secondary he helped construct.

"Having said that, we bolstered our safety position, I think, this offseason," Lynch continued. "[Talanoa Hufanga] has taken another step in his development. He's just a playmaker waiting to happen out there. You see his physicality. You see his speed. Whatever he runs, he runs faster on game day, he runs faster when the ball is in the air, and he plays really physical. And he's just always around the ball.

"[George] Odum has been a tremendous pickup. Really got him with the intention to come in here and bolster our special teams but also knowing he's a guy that played a number of games for Indy on a really good defense and played at a high level at the safety position last year.

"Tarvarius Moore has obviously been a really good player for us. He brings an element of speed. Also a great special teams player. And then we have the ability to flex up a guy like [Tashaun] Gibson [from the practice squad] if we need to. He's done it at this level for a long time. He's a ball hawk, so that's nice to have."

That's when Lynch moved on to the cornerbacks. The 49ers' biggest offseason addition was Charvarius Ward, who stepped in this offseason and instantly looked like a capable starter. By the time he was injured during training camp, the 49ers had already seen enough and didn't feel the need to rush him back for the preseason.

"Charvarius Ward, 'Mooney,' he's a big-time player," Lynch said. "We paid him to come in here and really hold down that corner spot. [Emmanuel] Moseley is back and healthy. Ambry Thomas is doing well.

"Sam Womack has come in, solidified that nickel position. Big shoes to fill for K'Waun Williams. Sam Womack's been a really bright spot for us. Deommodore Lenoir has kind of shown his versatility throughout this preseason.

"We always talk about the front seven, and rightfully so. They kind of make this engine go. But I'm happy where our secondary is at, and I think those guys will show it this week."

Speaking of that front, everyone knows that is the strength of the 49ers defense. Their ability to cause chaos in the trenches will elevate the productivity of the teammates lined up around them.

In April, the 49ers added to that already talented unit with their first draft pick, selecting defensive end Drake Jackson in the second round. Lynch admits that he receives texts from colleagues around the league complimenting the rookie, saying he looks like a top-five pick.

"Drake's got that kind of stuff in his body," Lynch said. "It's not all there yet. What gives me confidence [is] the tools are there. He's tough. He's not just a pass rusher. He can play the run exceptionally well.

"He's got a great room. Those guys are going to take care of him. When you're in a room with Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa and [Javon] Kinlaw and all those guys, Samson Ebukam, you just go to school. And then Kris Kocurek does such a great job developing those guys.

"Drake Jackson is going to be a really good player, and an opportunity to be a great player around here for a long time. But he's just got to go do it. He's got to continue to challenge himself because he's got a lot in that body.

"That D-line, it's loaded. Those guys, they need to affect every game. We put a ton of our resources there, and we do it for a reason. It's the great equalizer, to me, in football. Everything is set up for offensive success. How do you counteract that? You be dominant up front, and we've got the guys to be that. Now, they've got to go do that, week in and week out, make quarterback's lives miserable, make running games miserable. That's what they do, and I love it."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Lynch below.

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