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Why The 49ers Have The Best Defensive Line In The NFL

DeMeco Ryans and his defense are firing on all cylinders. However, the defensive line is wreaking havoc on quarterbacks at an elite level. Let’s take a look at why the 49ers’ d-line is the best and deepest group in the NFL.

What Is The Strength of the 49ers right now?

1). Points/game = 11.5 (1st)

2). Rushing Yards Allowed/Game = 73.2 (2nd)

3). Passing Yards Allowed/Game = 161.2 (2nd)

4). Total Yards Allowed/Game = 234.5 (1st)

5). Sacks = 15 (2nd)

Defensive Line Domination

While they are playing as a complete unit, a lot of credit needs to go to the defensive line. When Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over in 2017, their vision included finding a franchise quarterback and a unit that can get to the quarterback.

Who Is Kris Kocurek?

Kocurek started his coaching career at Texas Tech as a graduate assistant in 2003. In 2006, he was hired by Texas A&M-Commerce. After three seasons bouncing around smaller collegiate programs, Kocurek got a shot at the NFL level. In 2009, the Detroit Lions hired him as their assistant defensive line coach. The Lions organization promoted him to the lead defensive line coach in 2010.

Throughout the 2010s the Detroit Lions had one of the most aggressive and violent defensive lines in football. Despite their struggles, the defensive line was their strength. Notable players such as Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah were coached by Koceruk and played well under him. After eight years with Detroit, Kocurek spent a year with Miami in 2018 and then came to San Francisco to coach under Robert Saleh.

Kocurek is the most intense assistant coach on the staff. He preaches aggression and getting off the ball quickly. His defensive philosophy is that his players play the run on their way to the quarterback. This type of football requires instinctual players but they also must have elite quickness and speed.

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Kris Kocurek Hired by Kyle Shanahan

As we know the 49er defense was dominant in 2019, but Kocurek elevated his position group and dominated the NFL. However, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead remain the only two starting players from the 2019 core. Now in 2022, the 49ers added depth by drafting Javon Kinlaw in the 2020 NFL draft, signing Samson Ebukam to a two-year contract in 2021 free agency, and drafting Drake Jackson in the 2022 NFL Draft.

While these are the splashy signings, there are a few transactions since 2019 that go unnoticed. Here is a list of signings and trades the 49ers have made for players that now contribute on a weekly basis:

  1. Kevin Givens (undrafted free agent)

  2. Jordan Willis (via trade)

  3. Charles Omenihu (via trade)

  4. Hassan Ridgeway (free agent signing)

  5. Kerry Hyder Jr. (free agent signing)

  6. Kemoko Turay (free agent signing)

What is amazing about this list is that the players listed above have all started games in the NFL. Essentially, the 49ers have ten starting caliber players at the position – clearly the deepest position group on any squad.

The 49ers also stifled Cam Akers in the run game, only allowing fifty-seven rushing yards. Kevin Givens and Hassan Ridgeway played a role Monday night as well. Even though they did not light up the stat sheet, each player recorded a tackle for loss in the fun game.

Looking Ahead to Carolina

San Francisco travels to Carolina for Week Five. They will face a rookie left tackle in Ikem Ekwonu, who was selected 6th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. After compiling seven sacks Monday Night, expect the 49ers’ defensive line to equal their performance on Sunday. Kocurek and his squad will most likely be without Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw, however, the role players are getting valuable snaps and contributing. It is a great plug-and-play situation for DeMeco Ryans and his defense.

It is too early in the season to call this line all-time great. But, we could see Bosa break the NFL sack record and see career-making seasons from Ebukam, Omenihu, and Givens. Ultimately, they will have to fill in for Kinlaw and Armstead for now. Evidence illustrates the defense will be fine without them. If the 49ers’ defense can vault themselves to Super Bowl favorites, it will be because of their vaunted defensive line.



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