Ambry Thomas

49ers Rumors: DEs, Thomas, Hufanga

Last season, the 49ers finished the season as one of the top five teams in the league in sacks. The team was led in sacks by star defender Nick Bosa (15.5), Jaguars’ offseason addition Arden Key (6.5), Arik Armstead (6.0), and Samson Ebukam (4.5). As they turn the page towards the 2022 NFL season, San Francisco is looking at how to replace the production of Key and get a little more out of their pass rushers not named “Bosa,” according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic.

Right now, the starting defensive line likely has some combination of Javon Kinlaw, Armstead, and Bosa. Kinlaw is pretty stationary in terms of his placement on the inside of the line, as is Bosa on the edge, but Armstead and Key both were used as pass rushers from the edge and interior last season. With Key gone and Dee Ford not likely to stay with the team, according to a quote from head coach Kyle Shanahan provided by Cam Inman of 95.7 The Game, one of the favorites to fill that vacant role on the line is free agent acquisition Kerry Hyder.

Referring to Hyder as if he is new to the program is a bit misleading as he is only a year and a half removed from the last time he wore a 49ers jersey. That season in San Francisco was the best of his career as he recorded career-highs in sacks (8.5) and tackles (49) and tallied his second-highest season totals in tackles for loss (10.0) and quarterback hits (18). Hyder has experience and ability to play on the inside of the line like Armstead and Key, but his most effective seasons have seen him line up on the end, making him a prime candidate to complete the starting lineup.

Ebukam was fourth on the team in sacks but, at only 4.5, they didn’t provide quite the impact that was expected from his addition. He and Jordan Willis (who totaled 3.0 sacks last year) specialize as speed rushers that maybe don’t have the versatility to run with the first string. 2022 second-round pick Drake Jackson falls into that category, as well, but, as a rookie, he should have plenty of opportunities to make an impact on the line. Former Colts defensive end Kemoko Turay was brought in, too, but his time in Indianapolis mostly saw him playing on a rotational basis.

Charles Omenihu may be the best competition for Hyder considering that, last year, San Francisco used Omenihu in a very similar role as Key. His large frame could land him more on the inside of the line than the outside, but he claims very similar versatility as Hyder, while lacking the top-end production.

Here are a few other rumors on depth chart decisions the 49ers face this offseason, based on the spring practice breakdowns of Barrows:

  • With Jason Verrett still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last September, the 49ers brought in Charvarius Ward on a three-year free agent deal. He ran opposite Emmanuel Moseley with the ones all spring. Barrows noted that last year’s rookie, Ambry Thomas, is currently the No. 3 cornerback on the outside behind Ward and Moseley. Veteran Darqueze Dennard is the first-team unit’s nickel cornerback, though 2022 fifth-round pick Samuel Womack will push him for playing time this season. With those two occupied in the slot, Thomas becomes the team’s top backup option on the outside.
  • This offseason, the 49ers saw longtime safety Jaquiski Tartt depart in free agency. They now have a decision to make on who to pair up with Jimmie Ward in the defensive backfield. The top candidates to replace Tartt have been Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, and Tarvarius Moore. According to Barrows, Hufanga in the clear frontrunner following spring practices. Hufanga took all of the first-team snaps at strong safety while Odum and Moore ran as the second-team strong and free safeties, respectively. Hufanga made three starts as a rookie last year and will look to make the leap to full-time starter alongside Jimmie in 2022.

David Bakhtiari Not Playing Vs. Niners

Nine-year veteran tackle David Bakhtiari missed nearly the entire 2021 NFL season after tearing his ACL on New Year’s Eve during the 2020 season. Unfortunately, he will have to continue waiting to play in his first playoff game since January of 2019, as the team announced, via Twitter, that he will be inactive for tonight’s game against the 49ers. 

Bakhtiari had made a return for the Packers’ regular season finale, making the start in Detroit, but only playing 40% of the team’s offensive snaps. Head Coach Matt LaFleur shook off the early exit in a postgame press conference stating, “I wouldn’t say it’s anything we’re concerned about,” but it appears some continual discomfort throughout the week will keep the two-time All Pro from making a postseason return, just yet.

In the absence of Bakhtiari this year, the Packers have employed Elgton Jenkins at the blindside tackle position. Despite the reshuffled offensive line and several other injuries to key players, Green Bay still secured a first-round bye and homefield advantage. They will work tonight to extend their season another week and give Bakhtiari at least one more chance for a postseason return.

Other inactives for the Packers listed for the game tonight were safeties Shawn Davis & Vernon Scott, linebacker Jonathan Garvin, and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The 49ers will be without cornerbacks Ambry Thomas & Deommodore Lenoir, safety Jarrod Wilson, running back Trey Sermon, linebacker Marcell Harris, offensive lineman Jaylon Moore, and defensive lineman Maurice Hurst. Packers’ cornerback Jaire Alexander is expected to play tonight after being listed as questionable.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/7/22

Today’s updates for the Reserve/COVID-19 list:

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/4/22-1/5/22

Here are Tuesday and Wednesday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: TE Jared Cook, LB Damon Lloyd (remains on IR)

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

College Football Notes: Winter Season, Slater, Lance

Just like everything else in the world, college football has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the NFL, whose talent comes almost exclusively from the collegiate ranks, is willing to do whatever it can to make sure college football is played before the 2021 NFL draft.

As Albert Breer of SI.com writes, college coaches have discussed starting their season not in the spring, but on January 1, which would allow them to play out an eight-game season and even a postseason by mid-March. The NFL is willing to assist with that endeavor, whether that means offering its stadiums — like the Lions’ Ford Field — or pushing back its combine and draft.

Of course, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced plans to postpone their fall schedules to the spring, but a winter season may make it more likely that top college prospects choose to play rather than declare for the draft. Either way, it seems inevitable that the NFL will need to make some serious adjustments to its 2021 offseason schedule, but the league seems prepared to do so.

Now for more collegiate notes that could have a major impact on the professional game:

  • Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater is opting out of the 2020 season, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Slater is viewed as one of the best O-line prospects in the country — he was one of the few players to limit Ohio State star Chase Young last year — and Thamel believes Slater will not fall out of the first round.
  • Slater’s Big Ten colleague, Michigan CB Ambry Thomas, has also declared for the 2021 draft, a decision that Thomas himself announced via Twitter. Thomas just became a full-time contributor on defense in 2019, and he was excellent in press coverage. A likely Day 2 selection, he also has appeal as a kick returner.
  • One of the country’s premier FCS programs, North Dakota State, will not be playing football in 2020, as Andrew Groover of the NFL Network tweets. NDSU quarterback Trey Lance, whom NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has compared favorably to former Colts QB Andrew Luck, is a candidate to opt out of the program’s spring season and declare for the draft.
  • Per Thamel, the NCAA Division I Council has decided that fall sport student-athletes can participate in any number of competitions this year without it counting towards their eligibility (Twitter link). So if, say, a senior in the SEC has a down season in 2020, he can return next year to try and rebuild his stock.