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Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

49ers DE Nick Bosa has been elite, but the “help” has been equally as impressive

Rohan Chakravarthi
Dec 20, 2022 at 5:45 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers have been the best defense in the NFL during the 2022 campaign, spearheaded by defensive end Nick Bosa, who recently became the frontrunner to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

A prime reason why the defense has had such success? The unit has consistently pressured opposing quarterbacks while allowing the fewest rushing yards per game and fewest yards per carry.

DE Nick Bosa has led the charge, putting together a 15-sack, 70-pressure season, while generating a pass-rush win rate of nearly 25%, which is among the best in the NFL.

However, a critical aspect of the 49ers' success along the defensive line has been Bosa's "help", led by breakout DE Charles Omenihu, who has quietly produced a strong season as San Francisco's second-best pass-rusher on the edge.

On the season, Omenihu has 44 pressures, four sacks, and a 21.3% pass-rush win rate, all of which rank second on the 49ers this season.

While Omenihu has been primarily a pure pass-rusher this season, the former Houston Texans defensive end has showcased his versatility as an interior defender as well, stepping in due to injuries, which has increased the value of his play this season.

With his 44 pressures, Omenihu ranks just outside the top 30 among defenders this season, which is elite for a player still playing out his rookie deal.

When adding perspective, the Texas Longhorns product has been phenomenal, ranking ninth in the NFL in pass-rush win rate by volume this season.

San Francisco brought Omenihu in at the trade deadline last season for one specific reason—to rush the passer. After fully acclimating to his new team over the second half of last season and through the offseason, Omenihu has done exactly that in his first full season as a 49er.

Following the 49ers' dominant 13-0 win over the New Orleans Saints, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans praised Omenihu's efforts, which included 14 pressures—tied for best in the NFL with Nick Bosa over a two-game stretch at the time.

"Charles has done a really good job over the past couple of weeks," Ryans said. "Sometimes those inside guys, it goes unnoticed how much presence they bring. And Charles, with the length that he has, he's able to utilize that length to really make it tough on the quarterback. So, Charles, he's done a great job. He's getting better each and every week. He is applying pressure to the quarterback."

Ryans furthered his praise of Omenihu and his counterparts by including that even a player of Bosa's caliber requires help from his supporting cast.

"[Nick] Bosa may get most of the attention because he actually gets the quarterback down a lot more, and he's our best player, without a doubt. But Bosa can't do what he's able to do on the edge if it's not for [the others]. It's Kevin Givens, it's Kerry Hyder, it's Charles, it's Drake [Jackson], all those guys inside doing their job that allows Bosa to excel on the outside."

Fellow defensive end Samson Ebukam isn't far behind, ranking inside the top 60 with 34 pressures on the year, a 15.2% pass-rush win rate, and four sacks.

Ebukam has been very impressive, holding his own as a pass-rusher and a stout run defender, recording 18 run stops on the year with a 12.5% stop rate, which leads the team.

Although the 49ers have a deep rotation of defensive linemen, Ebukam has posted at least a 50% snap rate in every game but San Francisco's Week 2 27-7 blowout of the Seahawks, while showcasing his multi-faceted talents. Even more impressive, Ebukam has played at such a high level while dealing with injuries in a number of games this season—a testament to his grittiness and perseverance.

Behind Omenihu and Ebukam is rookie edge rusher Drake Jackson, who enjoyed a strong start to the 2022 season with three sacks in his first six weeks.

While the USC product hasn't recorded a sack since, he is fourth on the team in pressures with 16, despite a relatively low snap count, and sports a 10.1% pass-rush win rate, which ranks well among rookie edge rushers.

The depth continues with critical pieces such as defensive linemen Kerry Hyder and Kevin Givens, who each have over ten pressures on the season.

In fact, over San Francisco's past two performances, despite significant injuries to key players along the defensive line, each active player of the position group has recorded at least one pressure per game, truly encapsulating the effectiveness of the depth behind Nick Bosa.

This specific group of 49ers' defensive linemen has embodied the epitome of the phrase "next man up", as they continue to showcase success without regulars in the rotation, especially without Javon Kinlaw.

While this 2022 group isn't necessarily composed of several superstars like the 2019 49ers defensive line, it is much deeper, which maximizes the performance of those on the field.

While there have been some lapses, especially without Nick Bosa, the 49ers defensive line has spearheaded this incredible defensive performance during their seven-game winning streak, limiting opponents to no more than 275 yards passing and 75 yards rushing during the stretch.

Although Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead have missed significant time this season, defensive tackles Kevin Givens, Hassan Ridgeway, and recently, T.Y. McGill have filled in admirably, maintaining the degree of consistency that the starters provided.

The reason behind San Francisco's defensive success this season begins in the trenches, and the players opposite of Bosa deserve some of the spotlight for their integral roles this season.
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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