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Positional look at defense led by Bosa, Warner

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Positional look at defense led by Bosa, Warner


Nick Bosa #97 runs drills during San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

SANTA CLARA – Nick Bosa sharing pass-rushing tips with a new colleague has become an annual ritual. This week, Leonard Floyd is the one who enjoyably talked technique with the 49ers’ marquee defender.

Or is that moniker more deserving of linebacker Fred Warner? If not them, who?

The 49ers’ defense is undergoing a makeover, complete with new defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen and new assistant head coach Brandon Staley.

Contact drills won’t come for another two months, but this week’s start of organized team activities offers a glimpse at how the 49ers’ defense is looking, by position:

Leonard Floyd catches a breather during San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Leonard Floyd catches a breather during San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

DEFENSIVE END

Bosa agreed with Kyle Shanahan’s suggestion and came to OTAs for seemingly the first time in five years. Bosa showed up in his usual action-figure body but there’s a maturing leader in that No. 97 jersey, too.

Cast in the pass-rushing role opposite him is Floyd, a ninth-year vet who looks slender but agile and impactful. The bigger-bodied Yetur Gross-Matos looks like he could be a real steal after wallowing in Carolina’s dungeon.

“Drake isn’t healthy so he can’t go,” Shanahan said of Drake Jackson, who has been rehabilitating after requiring knee surgery late last season.

Robert Beal Jr. shows signs of making the Year 1-to-Year 2 jump that certainly worked well for another fifth-round pick in 49ers’ history (see: Kittle, George). Not drafting a defensive end this year could be haunting if the depth quickly erodes.

Yatur Gross-Matos #94 and Nick Bosa #97 participate in drills during San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Yatur Gross-Matos #94 and Nick Bosa #97 participate in drills during San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Projected starter Maliek Collins is expected to join OTAs next week, so Javon Hargrave lined up Tuesday next to another newcomer, Jordan Elliott, whose 6-foot-4, 303-pound frame looks favorable. Kalia Davis’ spunk is a positive sign after injuries delayed his NFL entry.

Kevin Givens and T.Y. McGill have tougher competition for roster spots this year. Shakel Brown doesn’t stand out next to established pros the way he did at his rookie minicamp tryout.

LINEBACKER

Fred Warner did not suit up Tuesday and was still the defense’s hype man, playfully taunting Purdy at the start of 11-on-11 action. With Dre Greenlaw three months into Achilles recovery from his Super Bowl trauma, De’Vondre Campbell is getting incorporated at the weak-side spot. Campbell didn’t play great at the end of his Packers’ tenure, so it will be interesting to see how much the 49ers are committed to him if a young buck excels over the next three months.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles filled in for Warner at practice and looked confident as a fifth-year veteran should. Pushing him and Curtis Robinson (strong-side on Tuesday’s first unit) will be a cast of younger linebackers hungry for action: Dee Winters, Jalen Graham and rookie Tatum Bethune.

Defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen watches San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen watches San Francisco 49ers practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

CORNERBACK

Deommodore Lenoir flexed from right cornerback to the inside as a nickel back Tuesday. That indeed could work for another season, especially if Isaac Yiadom earns the No. 3 (or No. 2) spot to play right cornerback. Second-round pick Renardo Green was the second-team nickel back, and his aggressive, feisty nature immediately showed.

With Charvarius Ward rehabilitating from core-muscle surgery in February, that allowed Ambry Thomas to line up at left cornerback on the first unit, but he didn’t help his cause. The 49ers should be excited to see what they can get out of Rock Ya-Sin, Chase Lucas, Sam Womack, and Darrell Luter Jr. in a battle for depth (and special teams service).

SAFETY



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