We take a look at two of the more important pieces on the Niners defensive line
The 49ers have invested heavily in their pass rush, and this was supposed to be the year it all came together. But, unfortunately, Nick Bosa didn’t get a chance to play in his second season. Based on his first year, without playing in Year 2, Bosa still has the fourth-highest odds to win Defensive Player of the Year this season.
Someone is going to have to be Batman’s Robin. It may not be the same person each game, and it doesn’t have to be. Ideally, it’s Javon Kinlaw or Arik Armstead, as those are the other two big investments upfront. San Francisco’s defensive line should be the best in the NFL as there are three top-15 picks and a handful of other players who can contribute.
There’s a difference between contributing and being a difference-maker. Bosa qualifies as a difference-maker. The Niners are looking for another one of those to take a step forward this season. Based on last year, are you more confident that Kinlaw or Armstead will rise to the occasion?
The numbers weren’t too kind to either player in 2020. Kinlaw finished with a sack percentage of 0.5%, a QB hit percentage of 2.4, and a pressure percentage of 4.1%. It’s not an easy transition for a defensive tackle, even coming from the SEC.
Armstead had four seasons of experience under his belt, but never really played like a “Batman.” He finished with a 0.8 sack percenage, 5.1% QB hit percentage, and an 8.5% pressure percentage.
To humor you, Bosa’s rookie year was 2.1/8.7/15.8 percent in the same categories. He’s not human. Bosa’s numbers scream superstar, and give us an idea of how dominant he can be an how he can help those around him.
To be fair to both Armstead and Kinlaw, they played much better than the numbers would suggest. From taking on double teams to playing outstanding run defense and even doing a lot of the dirty work, a lot goes into playing defense than the three numbers cited above.
So, in your mind, who has the bigger season? Kinlaw seems primed to take a jump in Year 2, and his defensive coordinator and teammates have already seen the results. Armstead could benefit from playing inside more. Shoot, everyone will benefit from Bosa being on the field.
I think Armstead has a year closer to 2019, but falls short of double-digit sacks, while Kinlaw continues to flash and show off his potential, before really taking a jump in Year 3. My pick is Armstead. I think he has a huge year.