The San Francisco 49ers defense pitched a shutout against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2, holding the Seahawks’ offense to just eight plays in 49ers territory. Now comes a Denver Broncos offense that features the 49ers boogeyman in former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson and company will be the 49ers defenses’ biggest test so far in 2022.
Here are the five players to watch as the defense looks for a repeat Week 2 performance:
DT Javon Kinlaw
With a backfield that features Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, there will be stress on the interior of the 49ers’ defensive line. Kinlaw has impressed early in the season against both the run and the pass with his three pressures through two games. Denver’s two-headed backfield has combined for 223 yards on 44 carries, an average of 5.06 yards per. Williams has especially been good up the middle, with 60 of his 118 rushing yards on runs between the guards.
LB Dre Greenlaw
Greenlaw played like a man who just got paid last week against the Seahawks. The veteran linebacker led the 49ers’ defense with eight tackles, with one being for a loss. It was a vast improvement over what we saw from Greenlaw in Week 1, where he was called for two bad 15-yard penalties. Greenlaw will play an important role in the second level of the 49ers’ defense in trying to stop not only the Denver running backs but also containing Russell Wilson.
CB Mooney Ward
Ward intercepted his first pass as a 49er against Seattle while allowing just six yards after the catch on five receptions allowed. Ward was targeted most against Tyler Lockett but didn’t allow the Seahawks receiver much room to operate after his four receptions. Ward and the secondary will face their toughest test of the season so far against Wilson and Courtland Sutton, who was targeted 11 times for seven receptions and 122 yards against Houston last week. The 49ers might catch a break with Jerry Jeudy not at practice both Wednesday and Thursday with a rib injury.
DL Charles Omenihu
Only Nick Bosa was better than Charles Omenihu at rushing the passer against Seattle last week. Ohemihu was credited with three pressures, two quarterback hits, and a hurry on 28 snaps in the win. Russell Wilson always proves to be a tough test for the 49ers’ pass rush, even with the subpar offensive lines he dealt with in Seattle. Likewise, the 49ers’ defensive line is in for a tough test against a Broncos line that features veterans Cameron Fleming and Garett Bolles at the tackles.
DT Kevin Givens
With DJ Jones signing with the Broncos this past off-season, Givens was tasked with stepping in for Jones as the third defensive tackle, and he’s done well early in the season. Three of his four tackles on Sunday against Settle were for loss on just six run defense snaps. Just like with Kinlaw, Givens’ roles in run situations could be huge when it comes to trying to stop Williams and Gordon.