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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

5 underrated 49ers thus far in 2022

Rohan Chakravarthi
Oct 14, 2022 at 6:35 PM--

Nick Bosa. Deebo Samuel. Trent Williams. Fred Warner. George Kittle.

The San Francisco 49ers are a team compiled of star players, which has allowed them to remain competitive over the past few seasons, albeit injuries have thwarted the team.

Still, with a strong core intact, the 49ers have benefitted from the contributions of several underrated players every year, with this year being no different.

Last season, I was all aboard the Emmanuel Moseley train, believing him to be the most underrated player on the team, which was clear as he has developed into a shutdown cornerback No. 2 for the 49ers opposite Charvarius Ward.

Now, in no particular order, here are my five underrated 49ers thus far in the 2022 season. (Ridgeway, Banks, Moore, Omenihu, Gipson, Ebukam)

5. DT Hassan Ridgeway

The 49ers have spent nearly half the season without their starting defensive tackles as Javon Kinlaw has missed both Weeks 4 and 5, while Arik Armstead was limited against the Rams before missing San Francisco's 37-15 win against the Panthers.

As a result, the 49ers have relied on backups Kevin Givens and Hassan Ridgeway to fill the void up the middle. I've given Givens his props over the past few seasons, hence why he won't be on the list, although he deserves his fair share of praise for being a starting-caliber defensive lineman.

Ridgeway signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the 49ers in the offseason and was a quiet contributor during training camp, raising questions as to what his role would be with the 49ers.

However, despite the unfamiliarity with the system, Ridgeway has grown trust with the coaching staff, having played significant snaps over the past two weeks, including a start in Week 5 against the Panthers.

Ridgeway has been an integral part of the 49ers' ability to stop the run over the past two weeks: the Rams rushed for just 57 yards on 18 attempts(3.2 yards per carry), while the Panthers rushed for only 64 yards on 17 attempts(3.8 yards per carry).

While Ridgeway's stats may not pop off the chart, his presence as a space-eating defensive lineman has occasionally required the attention of multiple defenders, freeing up San Francisco's linebackers to fill in the gaps and secure tackles near the line of scrimmage in the run game.

For the third straight week, Ridgeway has played over 30 defensive snaps, and will face potentially the biggest test of his season when the 49ers face off against the Atlanta Falcons, who have run the ball at a clip of over five yards per carry on significant volume.

4. S Tarvarius Moore

Why is a safety who's played one defensive snap all season on this list?

Well, with the improvements of Talanoa Hufanga and the emergence of Tashaun Gipson at safety, Moore's role has been relegated to special teams this season as one of San Francisco's top gunners in an attempt to improve the unit from the porous performance showcased in 2021.

Of Mitch Wishnowsky's 20 punts this season, only three have been returned for a total of nine yards, which ranks second in the NFL. The 49ers have pinned 11 of Wishnowsky's 20 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Kickoff returns are where the 49ers have primarily struggled, as San Francisco ranks as the 11th-worst team in average yards allowed per kickoff returns, which ballooned primarily after Moore sustained a hamstring injury, which has kept him out since Week 3.

While George Odum and Oren Burks have been pleasant additions to the special teams unit, the 49ers will need Moore's contributions to return to their early-season marks and re-establish themselves as a middle-of-the-pack special teams unit.

3. DE Charles Omenihu

Fellow defensive end Samson Ebukam earned his flowers last year after a strong finish to the season, which has translated to this year, where the veteran has been a stout edge rusher and run-defender for the 49ers opposite Nick Bosa.

Now, it's Charles Omenihu's turn, who has sprung into a breakout season that many, myself included, anticipated following the departure of Arden Key to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Five games in, Omenihu has dominated as a pass rusher, working both inside and outside, while recording a pressure rate over 20% thus far, trailing only Nick Bosa.

With the injury bug hitting the 49ers along the defensive line, Omenihu has built stability with his play alongside several other contributors, and could be San Francisco's lead pass-rusher in Week 6 should Nick Bosa not suit up due to a groin injury.

Omenihu's snap count has steadily increased, similar to his production, as he's now played in over 50% of the defensive snaps on three occasions this season after not eclipsing the 40% snap mark once following his trade to the 49ers last year.

2. S Tashaun Gipson

Enough can't be said about the performance that Tashaun Gipson has displayed in 2022, especially given that he signed with the 49ers late in the offseason due to a hamstring injury that Jimmie Ward sustained, which required him to go on Injured Reserve for the first four weeks of the year.

Gipson has managed the backend for the 49ers, allowing Talanoa Hufanga to thrive in a versatile role, but the two have been interchangeable on different defensive looks, which has allowed for creativity from defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

Initially brought in for his coverage abilities, Gipson has been a sound tackler for the 49ers, missing zero tackles on 14 opportunities thus far, while giving up zero catches in man coverage.

Perhaps the most vital element of Gipson's performance this year has been his availability. Of San Francisco's 324 defensive snaps thus far, Gipson has played on a whopping 322, which is second-most on the team behind Talanoa Hufanga.

Gipson's impact is even more important when you consider that Jimmie Ward will miss at least another game after suffering a hand injury in Week 6.

The spotlight has been on Talanoa Hufanga and Charvarius Ward in the secondary, but Gipson deserves some of the credit for holding down the fort and making a position that was supposedly weak heading into the season into a position of strength for the 49ers.

1. G Aaron Banks

Aaron Banks has arguably been the most underrated player for the 49ers this season, manning the left guard position well following the departure of veteran guard Laken Tomlinson and the insertion of a completely new interior offensive line for San Francisco.

With many clamoring that the offensive line would take a significant step back following the turnover, I remained firm on the stance that the 49ers would not only have at least an average offensive line this season, but also the best unit in the NFC West, which have both been true thus far.

Banks, known for his pass protection coming out of Notre Dame, has changed the dynamics of his body to better suit the 49ers' scheme, which has led to improved run blocking this season.

While Banks struggled with his anchor during training camp, the second-year guard has held up well in pass protection, for the most part, showcasing why the 49ers drafted him and believed he could be their left guard of the future.

Working without Trent Williams for the last two games, Banks has managed well in both facets, which should only continue once the star left tackle returns to the fold for the 49ers.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Big AL
    I want to add that we have to capitalize on Omenihus emergence. I think hes way better than Arden Key or Hyder a few years ago. Hes the real thing, remember what he did to Dallas last year...Omenihu was always considered very raw and now that hes putting it together theres no way we will be able to afford him after this season. Because of this and a few other reasons Im thinking the 49ers should be all in this year
    Oct 15, 2022 at 3:36 AM
  • BigAl
    Nice. Its unusual because I actually agree with all of this. Your analysis of the game has really been improving. I too was and am a believer in Banks, I felt he could actually be an upgrade. Tomlinson was certainly steady but last year seemed to have alot of false starts in or near the RZ, they were drive killers. Greenlaws playing like a star, sort of reminds me of a Kwon Alexander with a recklesss style. And of course Im a huge fan of Jauan Jennings. I could consider both those players as still underrated, only because I believe they both have star power. Im not sure any team in the league could survive all the injuries we've had. This speaks volumes to the job KS and JL have truley done. In their hands this team has- from a talent/roster standpoint- got better each and every year. Drake Jackson looks really good too. Of ATL has been a big running team and were really going to need Omenihu and co to keep gap integrity and play the containment game
    Oct 15, 2022 at 3:15 AM


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