Coming off a season that saw them lead the league in points allowed, the 49ers defense is undergoing a transition in 2023.
Steve Wilks will replace DeMeco Ryans as defensive coordinator. Ryans used two strong seasons to earn the head coach role for the Houston Texans
In addition to Ryans, the 49ers defense lost 11.5 sacks from last year with the departures of Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, and Jordan Willis.
To make up for the losses, San Francisco made a splash signing with the addition of Javon Hargrave. Hargrave gives the 49ers defensive line a strong pass rushing threat up the middle. Over the last three years in Philadelphia the veteran pass rusher averaged just under eight sacks each season.
San Francisco didn’t stop there. The 49ers also added Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant through free agency. The two veterans will be fighting for a role in the 49ers rotation at defensive end.
The position San Francisco did not look to add a player was at defensive end opposite Nick Bosa.
Enter Drake Jackson.
Jackson was selected near the end of the second round in last year’s NFL draft. The rookie defensive end finished with three sacks and a key interception late against Las Vegas. The comeback win over the Raiders would be the last action Jackson would see during his rookie campaign.
According to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, Jackson hit the rookie wall.
During the first week of OTA’s for the 49ers it was evident Jackson had worked hard to add strength. Despite the added bulk, Jackson showcased the same quickness off the ball and ability to turn the corner which caught San Francisco’s attention the year prior.
Look for Jackson to follow the path laid out by former USC teammate Talanoa Hufanga and become the 49ers defensive breakout star in 2023.
Jackson’s sacks during his rookie season were the result of cleaning up pressure generated by others. This is where the addition of Hargrave and a healthy Arik Armstead come in. With those two and Nick Bosa creating chaos in the backfield there should be ample opportunity for Jackson to finish it off.