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49ers’ dominant defensive line is back with Javon Hargrave addition

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 10, 2023 at 3:26 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers delivered a dominant performance in a 30-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to begin their season, cruising to victory after scoring on each of their first four drives and forcing five consecutive three-and-outs.

The offense was clicking on all cylinders early, but one of the biggest storylines was the defensive line, who got five total sacks against Kenny Pickett and the Steelers offense.

Drake Jackson led the way with three sacks, while Javon Hargrave and Kerry Hyder each got a sack a piece, with the 49ers' unit having their way against the Steelers' offensive line.

What the 49ers showcased on Saturday was exactly what the team envisioned when they signed defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million deal this offseason: the ability to sport a three-man dominant front with a rotational piece maximizing their ability around the trio.

While the stat sheet may not show the impact, the 49ers generated significant push up the middle, something that was lacking last season when Arik Armstead faced an injury, leaving rotational pieces to fill both interior spots, as Hargrave and Armstead were consistently gaining traction on the inside, leaving opportunities for the edge players to clean up.

What did the locker room think about the Hargrave addition and his early impact on the team?

Defensive end Nick Bosa, who was on a pitch count Sunday, had nothing but praise for his teammate, pointing out how a weapon like Hargrave on the inside would help the team's edge players improve as well.

"Yeah, I mean, we would watch [Hargrave] with Philly, and I think between him and Chris Jones and obviously Aaron Donald, it's pretty close on who affects games as much from the inside," Bosa said. "And to add him with Arik [Armstead], it's going to help us on the edge a lot."

Despite being away from the team during his holdout, Bosa remained up to date on his teammates, including Hargrave, noticing the improvements in preparation and pass-rushing moves from the defensive tackle.

"I was watching tape throughout the holdout, and, I mean, it was clear as day that he's made strides in his work ethic and his preparation and all of his moves out there," Bosa said. "He's really been detailed and put on some weight, and he's still moving like he moves, so it's going to be dangerous."

If the 49ers can keep all three of their weapons on the defensive line healthy, it's only going to propel the entire unit into delivering performances like Sunday's against the Steelers, and the free agent addition Hargrave should be a significant portion of that.

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