In 2019, the 49ers’ defense made a dramatic transformation, going from one of the league’s least productive units to a dominant group that helped fuel a run all the way to Super Bowl LIV.
After being the NFL’s 28th-best scoring defense in 2018, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s group finished last season allowing the eighth-fewest points. And entering the 2020 season, Pro Football Focus chose the 49ers as having the league’s top defense.
Rookie Nick Bosa will lead one of the NFL’s best pass rushes, as he finished with the league’s 11th-best grade in his first season with the 49ers. He’ll be joined by Javon Kinlaw, the No. 14 overall pick in April’s draft, who will man the interior of the defensive line. Kinlaw’s 90.7 pass-rush grade was the third-best mark in all of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
That’s all without mentioning the return of Richard Sherman, who finished last season as the top-rated cornerback in the NFL in coverage. Even at 32 years old, Sherman remains one of the league’s best defensive backs.
Plenty of the focus will be on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense after last year’s Super Bowl collapse, but at least coach Kyle Shanahan shouldn’t have to worry much about his swarming defense.