After looking at how the offensive line of the 49ers stacks up to the defensive lines of the divisional opponents, and against the AFC West, let’s take a look at how it stacks up to the defensive lines on the rest of the schedule.
The 2018 version of the 49ers offensive line is still in flux and could shake out in a couple of different ways. Former first-round picks Joshua Garnett, Laken Tomlinson, and Jonathan Cooper will battle with Erik Magnuson for the starting guard positions. Weston Richburg was brought in via free agency to start at center and 2018 first-round pick Mike McGlinchey takes over the starting right tackle duties while Joe Staley remains the rock at left tackle. No matter who comprises this new unit, they must come together quickly because they will be challenged Week 1.
The Vikings surrendered the fewest yards and points in the NFL last year and added former pro-bowler Sheldon Richardson to a defensive line that already included Danielle Hunter (7 sacks), Linval Joseph and three-time Pro-Bowler Everson Griffen (13 sacks). With the ability to produce pressure off both ends as well as up the middle (the double A-gap blitz is a favorite of head coach Mike Zimmer), the Vikings defensive line unit will be one of the toughest challenges the 49ers face all year and the offensive line will need to bring its A-game.
After finishing last season in the bottom third of the NFL in both points and yards allowed, the Lions hired former New England Patriots defensive coordinator and actual rocket scientist Matt Patricia as head coach. The Lions’ defense features Ziggy Ansah (12 sacks) as the only true pass rush threat (7½ sacks among the 3 other starters) on the defensive line. Detroit will feature multiple fronts and looks which could cause trouble for the less experienced members of the 49ers offensive line, but when all is said and done this is a match up that should favor the 49ers.
Green Bay Packers
In Week 6 the 49ers go on the road to face a team with a new defensive coordinator. Mike Pettine brings an aggressive 3-4 style defense to the Packers’ who added Muhammad Wilkerson (3½ sacks) to the defensive line. Wilkerson joins returning starters Mike Daniels, a Pro-Bowler in 2017, (5 sacks) and Kenny Clark (4½ sacks) up front for the Packers but look for Clay Matthews to be a moveable chess piece that will augment the pass rush, still this is a matchup that the 49ers should feel good about.
New York Giants
This is not the same team that C.J. Beathard and company hung thirty-one points on en route to the 49ers’ first victory last season; however, the Giants’ defense will be familiar. James Bettcher, coming over from the 49ers’ division rival Arizona Cardinals is New York’s new defensive coordinator. Bettcher will not quite have the same type of personnel that he had with the Cardinals (no Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu), but if he can successfully convert the Giants from a 4-3 to a 3-4 there is enough to cause some headaches for opposing offenses. Olivier Vernon converts from defensive end to outside linebacker and third-round draft pick, Lorenzo Carter is a unique athlete that could cause problems off the edge. However, this should be a matchup that still favors the 49ers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs return the same defensive coordinator from last year, Mike Smith, despite finishing last in the NFL in yards allowed and 22nd in points. Tampa Bay completely remade its defensive line from 2017 adding Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants) via trade, and free agent Vinny Curry (Eagles) plus first-round draft pick Vita Vea, to six-time Pro-Bowler Gerald McCoy. On paper this could be one of the tougher match ups for the 49ers, Tampa’s defensive line has the ability to get pressure off the edge and disrupt things up the middle as well.
Former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio orchestrated a defense that finished in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed and fewest points allowed. Chicago added Akiem Hicks and his 8½ sacks, as well as the mercurial Aaron Lynch to bolster the pass rush. Hicks will likely be joined by Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard up front, giving the Bears a solid but not spectacular defensive line. A wildcard will be how Fangio deploys first-round draft choice Roquan Smith (linebacker). Ultimately, this is a match up that should favor the 49ers.
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