Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Midseason Awards: Most Valuable, Improved, and Disappointing Players on Defense

Rohan Chakravarthi
Nov 10, 2022 at 7:05 PM--


The San Francisco 49ers are set to return from their bye week to face the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi's Stadium in Week 10, marking the beginning of a favorable second-half travel schedule as they have four home games in five weeks.

Standing at 4-4 at the bye week, the 49ers have certainly gone through their ups and downs this season, so let's evaluate the first half in the form I know best: grades.



Here are the midseason awards, both good and bad, for the 49ers thus far on defense.

Most Valuable Player: Nick Bosa


The 49ers certainly have several candidates that could fit the bill, but no resume stacks up against Nick Bosa, who is currently in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year, despite missing 1.5 games this season.

Currently sitting at 2nd in the NFL with 8.5 sacks on the season, Bosa has continued to improve his game as a pass-rusher after a phenomenal 15.5-sack campaign in 2021.

Bosa has accumulated 36 pressures on the season, ranking sixth in the NFL, while his pass-rush win rate stands at around 24%, which is another top-ten mark in the NFL.

However, Bosa isn't only an elite pass-rusher. The fourth-year defensive end is stout against the run as well along the edge, sparking a strong run defense to complement one of the best pass-game defenses in the NFL.

With the second half coming soon, Bosa begins with a favorable matchup against Los Angeles Chargers right tackle Storm Norton, which could be a defining factor in the Chargers' offensive gameplan.

Most Improved Player: Talanoa Hufanga


Once again, there are a couple of contenders for this award, as defensive lineman Charles Omenihu came in a close second. But, the choice has to be Talanoa Hufanga, who has erased any concerns about the safety position group that existed prior to the season.

Hufanga has been a playmaker for the 49ers, catching three interceptions thus far on the season, including a vital game-sealing pick-six against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football in Week 4.

Hufanga's aggressiveness has been important in the run game, as his utilization of instincts and quick burst allow him to get to opposing players quickly.

While he has faced tackling issues, which have led to some crucial mistakes, the 49ers should welcome that form of aggressiveness, especially as it slows opposing players down.

Prior to the season, many clamored that there would be coverage concerns with Hufanga playing the backend, but that hasn't occurred, as the second-year safety has allowed just a 56% completion rate with an average depth of target of 5.6 yards and a passer rating of 41.8.

He's been special for the 49ers this season.

Most Disappointing Player: Jimmie Ward


Javon Kinlaw could deserve a spot on this list, but due to injuries being the primary concern for him and Arik Armstead, I'm going with Jimmie Ward.

Ward has experienced a position change since returning from his broken hand injury, playing more as a nickelback, which could be expected to remain after cornerback Jason Verrett tore his Achilles and will be out for the season.

Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Ward struggled to sustain coverage, sometimes even getting burnt by backup skill position players, as he couldn't play strong press-man coverage due to his club.

Ward has expressed a desire to play at his natural position of free safety, which could allow him to better utilize his instincts and play recognition to make a bigger impact.

With the club off and more reps in the slot for Ward, I expect a better performance in the second half of the season, but he will likely be relied upon to deliver at nickelback following the latest injury news 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.
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