Chris Biderman’s three takeaways from the 49ers’ haul in the 2019 NFL Draft
New 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek knows high expectations surround his position group given the high level of talent he’s inheriting. His response when asked about those expectations this week was hardly a surprise.
“We’ll worry about tomorrow when tomorrow gets here,” he said. “Let’s worry about today. And then when tomorrow arrives, we’ll get better tomorrow.”
But a problem facing Kocurek and his defensive line is a notable absence from the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, pass rusher Nick Bosa. The rookie spent Wednesday’s OTA practice, which was open to reporters, chatting with top personnel executive Adam Peters on the sideline, not working with his teammates, while he recovers from a mild hamstring strain suffered May 21. There will be many tomorrows before Bosa’s return.
The 49ers are expected to take things slowly with their highest-drafted player, likely keeping him out of practice until the start of training camp late July, which could mean missing the team’s mandatory minicamp beginning June 11.
And while the team’s new “Wide 9” alignment along the defensive line is straightforward from a schematic standpoint, Bosa is still missing valuable reps. He last played in a game Sept. 15 against TCU, when he sustained a core muscle injury that required surgery.
Rushing the passer and setting the edge is not simple like riding a bike, 49ers pass rush coach Chris Kiffin said this week, meaning Bosa has a lot of work ahead before his expected NFL debut Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“For me, it’s always been, you use your skills or you lose your skills,” Kiffin said. “I don’t do it often, but I can still get on there and ride a bike. For Nick, he really needs those live reps.
“When we get into training camp against (Mike) McGlinchey and Joe (Staley), those live one-on-one reps, where he can see, ‘alright, this is going to work at this level, now this is something I need to fine tune.’ And obviously preseason games and all that. For him, he’s going to need to get quality work in before we open with Tampa.”
Bosa has been an active participant in the defensive line room, studying film and breaking down practices, Kiffin said. The early reviews of Bosa, as a the teammate, have been very positive. He joined his teammates at a recent Sharks playoff game after entering the NFL facing question marks about how he’d fit in a locker room because of questionable social media habits in his past.
Ford and Bosa form a rare threat
His new teammate, Dee Ford, offered Bosa words of encouragement when he first suffered the injury during an individual pass rushing drill after getting second-team reps in 11-on-11s.
“He’s a really good guy,” Ford said. “You hate to see that for a rookie because he’s really progressing and he’s going to be important for this defense. That D-line room is really starting to mesh.”
On the field, the 49ers are expecting Bosa and Ford to complement each other in important ways, even if they often line up on the opposite sides of formations. Bosa’s appeal as a prospect stems from his ability to shed blocks by using his hands. His fundamentals are considered highly developed and he’s already one of the team’s strongest defensive linemen in the weight room.
Ford, on the other hand, is known for his speed and explosiveness off the snap. Many 49ers have said they believe Ford has the fastest “get-off” in the NFL. He wins with speed while Bosa more often uses power to defeat blockers.
Ford and Bosa are expected to switch sides regularly, which could provide unique challenges to opposing offenses throughout the course of games.
“The natural way I think about it, when you talk about guys like Dee Ford and Nick Bosa,” Kiffin said, “would be like two different baseball pitchers. A guy who can pitch seven innings and then now you bring in a middle reliever or a closer and that’ll be Dee rushing on the right side in the first half, and now here comes Nick.
“A left tackle’s got to prepare for two totally different style of guys to be able to throw that at them. Not just two different styles but two really good players that can do that, that can beat you a number of different ways. They will complement each other because their rush styles are different. And obviously, their explosiveness (comes) in a different manner too.”
Unfortunately for San Francisco, with so many key players working through injuries this offseason, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s going to take time for full arsenal to get on the field.
“It’s just the mindset and all that stuff that he’s missing, just get his legs under him,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He hasn’t played football in a year. To get his sea legs back, if you will. That’s what I feel like he’s missing, but I’m not worried about him being able to catch up.”