49ers

Why Bosa is bigger loss for 49ers than Saquon is for Giants

49ers

Aside from the fact that they'll both be playing on the death trap that is the MetLife Stadium turf in Week 3, the 49ers and New York Giants unfortunately have another thing in common. When the two sides face each other on Sunday, they'll each do so without arguably their best player.

The 49ers have been disproportionately affected by the injury bug this season, but were dealt their biggest blow thus far when edge rusher Nick Bosa sustained a torn ACL in the first quarter of their 31-13 Week 2 win over the New York Jets, ending his season. You could make the argument tight end George Kittle is San Francisco's best player, but even if that's the case, Bosa surely is no further down than No. 2 on that list.

Shortly after Bosa left the game on a cart, Giants star running back Saquon Barkley did the same in their eventual 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. Like Bosa, Barkley's season is finished due to a torn ACL. And like Bosa, he arguably is the best player at his position in the entire league.

Bosa and Barkley's absences will be felt early and often throughout the remainder of the season by their respective teams. But since they'll be going head to head in Week 3, it begs the question: Which player is a bigger loss?

Any argument in favor of Barkley would center around the fact that he's the only offensive standout on the Giants' roster. Without him, there's nobody left that keeps defensive coordinators up at night.

 

However, no disrespect to Barkley, but there's no question the 49ers are hurt more by the loss of their star than the Giants are.

For one, it's a matter of position value. There's a reason why edge rushers are included among the premium salary positions, alongside quarterback, left tackle and cornerback. In an era that increasingly has made things easier on the offense, quarterback pressure is a defense's best friend. Bosa provides that in spades, and though he might only be in his second season, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year already is considered to be a generational talent and one of the very best defensive players in the league.

Then, as ESPN's Trey Wingo pointed out on Twitter, there's also the element of expectations.

The Giants never were going to compete for a playoff spot this season, no matter how impressive Barkley was. The 49ers, on the other hand, were considered the preseason favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LV, a reflection of their supreme talent and depth.

Bosa's injury hurts -- massively -- in both of those areas.

The 49ers rode the strength of their defensive line to a 13-3 record and the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC last season. It already was going to be difficult for the D-line to replicate its dominance with DeForest Buckner now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, but with Bosa done for the rest of the season, whatever chance there was has flown out the window.

San Francisco's defensive strategy is predicated on getting pressure off the edge, which is why the 49ers drafted Bosa No. 2 overall and traded a second-round pick for Dee Ford. The loss of Bosa could be somewhat mitigated if Ford is able to play at a Pro Bowl level, but he missed the Jets game with an injury, and at this point it doesn't seem like the 49ers can count on him staying healthy once he does recover.

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There's no overstating the magnitude of Bosa's injury. Forget a game -- it's potentially a season-changer. The 49ers' depth should help them stay afloat while other key players -- like Kittle, Ford, Richard Sherman and Deebo Samuel -- return from their own injuries, but if they're going to return to the Super Bowl, they're going to have to do it in a different way than they did last season.

For that reason alone, there's no question Bosa is a much more significant loss than Barkley is.