The 49ers’ run to Super Bowl LIV was spearheaded by the team’s very stout defensive line. With continuity across the board — repeating as NFC champions will likely start for San Francisco with their defensive front again. Big showings from some of their rotational players in Friday’s practice are a positive sign that their depth along the front will continue to be a strong suit.
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ESPN’s Nick Wagoner observed that defensive linemen Kentavius Street and Solomon Thomas were “both very effective in pass rush drills,” and that Thomas would’ve had a sack in the team portion of practice.
The emergence of Thomas and Street as reliable rotational options would be a significant development for the 49ers.
Thomas has been a fine rotational player through his first three seasons, even if he hasn’t lived up to his status as the No. 3 overall pick. However, with rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw still getting his NFL legs and nose tackle DJ Jones nursing a shoulder injury of unknown severity — Thomas could be in for an increased role on the interior this season. The 49ers would love to see Thomas line up an increased workload with a sizable step forward in on-field production.
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Street is an intriguing option on the defensive line as well after missing his entire rookie year due to a pre-draft ACL tear, then re-aggravating that injury last season after playing just 38 snaps across three games late in the year. The 49ers selected him in the fourth round of the 2018 draft with the hopes he could be a contributor at defensive tackle. A fully healthy Street is one of the 49ers’ strongest players, and having him navigating the interior of the defensive line at a time when depth there is thin would be a welcome sight for the 49ers’ coaching staff.
Another note worth mentioning came from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch, who said reserve defensive end Kerry Hyder came up with a sack in team drills. Game max payne.
Hyder has been reunited in San Francisco with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. The defensive end had a breakout campaign with 8.0 sacks in 2016 with the Lions when Kocurek was the defensive line coach there. An Achilles kept Hyder out for the 2017 campaign, and he posted just 1.0 sacks in seven games in 2018 before joining the Cowboys last year.
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The hope for the 49ers is joining a Kocurek-coached defensive line, three years removed from his injury, will help Hyder become an effective rotational edge rusher once again. San Francisco’s pass rush was at its best last year when they had a deep rotation of fresh legs each game, and Hyder coming on throughout camp gives them a chance to replicate that again in 2020.