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49ers roster: Most improved position group on defense

The 49ers’ defense was good in 2023, but it lacked some of the edge that came to define that unit beginning in the 2019 campaign. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was let go this offseason and replaced with first-time coordinator Nick Sorensen in an effort to get San Francisco’s defense back on track. That wasn’t the only change that needed to be made though.

There was a personnel problem for the 49ers as well that sparked some of their defensive woes, particularly along the defensive line. It was clear they needed upgrades up front and they addressed those needs often during the offseason, making their defensive line the most improved position group.

Defensive end Nick Bosa didn’t put up another Defensive Player of the Year campaign, but despite notching just 10.5 sacks he was still excellent as an edge setter against the run and at pressuring quarterbacks. The pressures just didn’t turn into sacks as often as they had in the previous two seasons where Bosa averaged 17.0 sacks per year.

Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave was also good despite not reaching the lofty standards he’d set with a dominant 2022 campaign for the Eagles.

Beyond that the 49ers had a ton of trouble finding production from their defensive line, which spurred a dramatic overhaul up front in the offseason.

DL Arik Armstead was released after not agreeing to a pay cut to stay with the 49ers. Neither DE Chase Young nor DE Randy Gregory were re-signed. DT Javon Kinlaw also exited in free agency.

With glaring needs up front, San Francisco signed Browns free agent DT Jordan Elliott and added DT Maliek Collins in a trade with the Texans. Both players have good track records as run stuffers which should help the 49ers shore up a run defense that got torched in the postseason.

They also secured DEs Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos in free agency to help lead the way in front of unproven players like Drake Jackson and Robert Beal Jr.

Floyd has consistently produced with at least 9.0 sacks in each of the last four seasons, while Gross-Matos offers the same type of versatility and upside that made Charles Omenihu such a valuable player for them in 2021 and 2022.

Adding proven veterans was something the 49ers didn’t do on the defensive front last year and it forced them to try and fix it on the fly mid-season. Now they’ve aimed to fix it in the offseason, and on paper it appears that group will be their most improved in 2024.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire