The 49ers on Friday made a couple of moves official.
That means there’s a little bit of a shakeup in the 49ers’ defensive end depth chart heading into a Week 1 matchup against the Steelers.
In a world where Bosa did not sign his deal and was not on hand for the season opener, Bryant likely would’ve played a lot since the DE group was thin and largely unproven.
Even with Bosa back in the building it’s a little surprising the team released a defensive end. Bosa didn’t get any full-speed practices in during the offseason so Sunday will be his first football since January. It would’ve made sense if the club wanted as much insurance there as possible for the opener, but the fact they released Bryant is an indicator they anticipate Bosa to play a lot and at a high level.
Here’s what the new DE depth chart should look like Sunday:
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Bosa wasn’t a “starter” on Sunday and instead opens the game as more of a situational pass rusher while easing his way into a bigger role. However, he’s the unquestioned No. 1 on their depth chart and will likely wind up playing the most snaps at the position vs. Pittsburgh with only three other DEs on the roster.
It’s a tossup between Ferrell and Drake Jackson for the other top spot opposite Bosa. Ferrell gets the nod for now though because he was available during training camp and had a productive preseason. He’ll see plenty of action on Sunday though, especially if the 49ers can utilize him as an interior pass rusher in sub packages.
If Jackson has improved as a run defender and proves he can stay on the field for all three downs then the 2022 second-round pick will be a starter. However, he missed some time in the preseason so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s a rotational edge rusher Sunday with maybe a little bigger role to fill in any gaps made by an atypical Bosa rest.
Hyder split his time last year between the edge and the interior. This year he may be needed more on the outside though, especially if there’s a limit on Bosa’s snap count vs. the Steelers. He’s struggled to produce the last couple years, but more action on the edge might help him recapture at least some of the form he found in 2020 when he posted a career-high 8.5 sacks in San Francisco.