49ers' Position Battles to Watch Ahead of 2022 NFL Season
The San Francisco 49ers’ offense has been in focus for most of the offseason.
The defense should take up a larger role in the discussion around the team as training camp draws closer.
San Francisco needs to find complements to Nick Bosa and Jimmie Ward at edge-rusher and safety.
The 49ers have some young prospects that could take over in those roles, but they need to impress in training camp to completely control those spots on the depth chart.
While most of the offensive focus is on the quarterback, there will be an important battle for the spots behind the signal-caller on the field.
Elijah Mitchell is the clear No. 1 running back on the depth chart, but there is less clarity among the group of rushers beneath him.
San Francisco would love to have some clarity behind Mitchell as the season begins that way it has enough stability as possible to support Trey Lance
The 49ers need to find someone to complement Nick Bosa off the edge.
Bosa was responsible for 15.5 of the team’s 48 sacks last season and he should garner even more attention in 2022 with so many questions around him on the defensive line.
Opponents should lock in on Bosa with multiple defenders and let the others on the 49ers defensive line beat them until those players prove their worth.
Samson Ebukam and 2022 second-round pick Drake Jackson are the most likely candidates to start opposite Bosa in Week 1.
Dee Ford is still on the 49ers roster, but he will likely be cut in the coming weeks instead of sticking around for training camp.
Ebukam’s career high in sacks is 4.5. He recorded that total in each of the last three seasons, the first two of which were with the Los Angeles Rams.
Ebukam’s production is nice, but the 49ers could need more off the edge, especially if opponents put the clamps on Bosa in certain games.
Jackson could make a push for the starting job in training camp. He had 25 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in his three years at USC.
Jackson’s ability to get off the edge and into the backfield could help the 49ers find some balance opposite Bosa.
The 49ers may feel comfortable with using both players to start the season, and it may take some time for one of them to gain complete control of the starting spot. That is the best-case scenario for a team that needs a bit more balance in the sack column.
The 49ers need Talanoa Hufanga, or someone else, to step up and replace the void left open by Jaquiski Tarrt’s departure.
Tartt is still a free agent, but if he were to come back that deal probably would have happened by now.
Hufanga played in 15 games last season. He had 32 tackles, two passes defended, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss.
Although he gained experience on the field, Hufanga was not the primary starter at strong safety. The jump up to full-time starter might be too much for him to handle.
Tarvarius Moore is returning from an injury layoff and George Odum was signed from the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.
Moore and Odum should be behind Hufanga on the depth chart entering training camp, but they may have a chance to move up based on their performances this summer.
Hufanga should be the Week 1 starter, but that role will come with some question marks until he matches the production of Jimmie Ward, the starter at free safety.
No. 2 Running Back
Elijah Mitchell is the 49ers starting running back.
That is about all we know about the 49ers’ plans at the position.
Trey Sermon’s inability to take hold of the No. 2 spot opened up the opportunity to draft Tyrion Davis-Price out of LSU.
Davis-Price, Sermon, Jeff Wilson and JaMycal Hasty will all compete for the snaps behind Mitchell.
Because this is the San Francisco offense we are talking about, the No. 2 running back should get his share of carries over 17 games.
The importance of the backup running back will grow if Deebo Samuel, who was the team’s second-leading rusher in 2021, is traded. Samuel accounted for 365 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground last season.
Wilson is the top returner with 294 yards and two scores from a year ago. Sermon had 167 yards over nine games, which was the same total of appearances made by Wilson. Hasty only received 16 carries in 2021.
Wilson and Sermon should be the favorites to secure the No. 2 spot, but if Davis-Price impresses in training camp, he could make a push for that spot.
Kyle Shanahan and his staff put trust in a rookie running back last season with Mitchell and they could do the same thing if the LSU product outperforms the other three running backs.