Sports

Positional look at defense led by Bosa, Warner

Nick Bosa #97 performs drills during San Francisco 49ers practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

SANTA CLARA – Nick Bosa sharing tips for avoiding passes with a new colleague has become an annual ritual. This week, Leonard Floyd was the one who pleasantly talked about technique with the 49ers’ flagship defender.

Or does linebacker Fred Warner deserve that nickname more? If not them, who?

The 49ers defense is undergoing an overhaul, with the arrival of new defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen and new associate head coach Brandon Staley.

Contact drills won’t take place for another two months, but the start of organized team activities this week offers a glimpse into the state of the 49ers’ defense, by position:

Leonard Floyd takes a break during San Francisco 49ers practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Leonard Floyd takes a break during San Francisco 49ers practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

DEFENSIVE END

Bosa agreed with Kyle Shanahan’s suggestion and came to OTAs for the first time in five years. Bosa appeared in his usual action figure body, but there’s also a maturing leader in that No. 97 jersey.

Opposite him in the passer role is Floyd, a ninth-year veteran who looks thin but agile and impactful. The bigger Yetur Gross-Matos looks like he could be a real bargain after wallowing in Caroline’s dungeon.

“Drake’s not healthy, so he can’t go,” Shanahan said of Drake Jackson, who is rehabbing after requiring knee surgery late last season.

Robert Beal Jr. is showing signs of moving from year one to year two, which has certainly worked out well for another fifth-round pick in 49ers history (see: Kittle, George). Not drafting a defensive end this year could be haunting if depth erodes quickly.

Yatur Gross-Matos #94 and Nick Bosa #97 participate in drills during San Francisco 49ers practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Yatur Gross-Matos #94 and Nick Bosa #97 participate in drills during San Francisco 49ers practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

DEFENSIVE ATTACK

Projected starter Maliek Collins is expected to join OTAs next week, so Javon Hargrave lined up Tuesday alongside another newcomer, Jordan Elliott, whose 6-foot-4, 303-pound frame looks favorable. Kalia Davis’ grit is a positive sign after injuries delayed her entry into the NFL.

Kevin Givens and TY McGill have tougher competition for roster spots this year. Shakel Brown doesn’t stand out from established pros like he did during his rookie minicamp tryout.

LINEBACKER

Fred Warner did not dress on Tuesday and was still the hot man on defense, playfully taunting Purdy early in the 11-on-11 action. While Dre Greenlaw has been recovering for three months from Achilles from his Super Bowl trauma, De’Vondre Campbell fits in at the weak spot. Campbell didn’t play very well at the end of his tenure with the Packers, so it will be interesting to see how committed the 49ers will be to him if a young man excels over the next three months.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles replaced Warner in practice and looked confident as a fifth-year veteran should. He and Curtis Robinson (strong side of Tuesday’s first unit) will be joined by a group of young linebackers hungry for action: Dee Winters, Jalen Graham and rookie Tatum Bethune.

Defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen watches San Francisco 49ers practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen watches San Francisco 49ers practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

CORNER BACK

Deommodore Lenoir flexed from right cornerback to the inside as a nickel back on Tuesday. This could indeed work for another season, especially if Isaac Yiadom gets the No. 3 (or No. 2) spot to play right cornerback. Second-round pick Renardo Green was the second team’s nickel back, and his aggressive and fiery nature immediately showed.

As Charvarius Ward recovered from core muscle surgery in February, it allowed Ambry Thomas to line up at left cornerback on the first unit, but it didn’t help his cause. The 49ers should be excited to see what they can get out of Rock Ya-Sin, Chase Lucas, Sam Womack and Darrell Luter Jr. in a battle for depth (and special teams department).

SECURITY

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