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49ers defensive line depth continues to stand out in camp

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The 49ers’ defensive front was the catalyst to the club’s run to the Super Bowl last season. While the starting unit was strong, it was the depth that allowed the line to be relentless and impact quarterbacks for all 60 minutes. Despite losing defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day, training camp returns indicate depth on the defensive line should continue to be one of the team’s biggest strengths.

Following the team’s Friday practice inside Levi’s Stadium, ESPN’s Nick Wagoner noted that two potentially key rotation pieces had strong outings on the defensive line.

He said Solomon Thomas and Kerry Hyder both stood out during the session. Thomas had a couple of sacks, and Hyder contributed another while applying consistent pressure. Defensive tackle Kevin Givens was also a player Wagoner singled out form the defensive line.

With rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw still finding his way in the NFL, having a bulked up Thomas playing well on the interior is a significant development for San Francisco. He’s entering his fourth season and has bounced around inside and outside during his career. Now he’s set to play almost exclusively inside where he’s more comfortable, and the change has him playing well in camp. If he translates that into the regular season and the 49ers can rely on him to push the pocket from the inside on passing downs — it’ll help alleviate some of the stress put on the defensive line following the loss of Buckner in the offseason.

Hyder’s name has surfaced a few times throughout camp as well. There was some thought when he signed in San Francisco after one year with Dallas that reuniting with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek would help Hyder regain the form that carried him to a career-best 8.0 sacks in 2016. Now three years removed from an Achilles tear and playing under the same coach that helped guide him to his best season as a pro — Hyder looks to be in line for a spot as a rotational edge rusher who can effectively spell Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford. Depth at the edge is especially important for the 49ers.

Givens coming on as a potential player on the interior would be welcome for San Francisco too given their depth issues there. He played in one game last year as an undrafted rookie after spending most of the year on the practice squad. The 49ers have Kinlaw, Thomas and DJ Jones inside, with Arik Armstead also kicking inside on passing downs. Having another capable player to chew up snaps would only bolster San Francisco’s best unit.



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