One of San Francisco's areas of concentration in recent NFL Draft has been the defensive line, where three of the four starts have been selected in the first round of their classes.
The San Francisco 49ers head into Sunday's matchup against the Washington Redskins at 0-5, but don't let the record fool you: there is talent on head coach Kyle Shanahan's roster, and it starts with the defensive line.
As it stands on the team's unofficial depth chart, the 49ers run a 4-3 style defense, with Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead manning the two end spots and Earl Mitchell and DeForest Buckner filling out the two interior roles. With the size of Armstead and Buckner (both listed at 6-foot-7), the speed and strength of Thomas and the experience of Mitchell, this 49ers defensive line is a force to be reckoned with at times.
"They have been impressive, man. They are young and long and physical, really," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "They hit Carson Palmer – I don't know how many times – about 25 I think. They got after [Jacoby] Brissett pretty good and Goff pretty good. They have talent."
So far this season, the group of four has combined for four sacks and one forced fumble while providing constant pressure.
Maybe the most notable trait of this defensive front is the slew of physical tools at its disposal, evidenced by the fact that all but Mitchell are former first round draft picks.
Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 273-pound edge defender was one of the premier prospects in this year's NFL draft and for good reason. The Stanford product ranked in the top five at his position in four exercises (bench press, broad jump, three cone drill and 20 yard shuttle) at the NFL Combine this year.
Buckner and Armstead, two tall linemen out of Oregon, had the physical attributes to get swooped up in the first round as well, with Armstead going at No. 17-overall in 2015 and Buckner at No. 7-overall in 2016.
"They have a really good defense," running back Chris Thompson told Redskins.com this week. "They've got length up front, a few guys that are [6-foot-7]. So, for us, we're going to really have to be on our reads, be patient."
The line is not short on depth either, with five-time Pro Bowler Elvis Dumervil waiting as the first guy off the bench.
Filling out the front seven are linebackers Eli Harold, Reuben Foster and three-time Pro Bowler NaVorro Bowman. Altogether, a physically gifted defensive line and a strong core of linebackers make this 49ers defensive front a formidable opponent for the Redskins ground game as well as Kirk Cousins.
Fortunately for the Redskins, their rushing attack has been an integral part of their offense this season. Thanks to a hot start from Chris Thompson and solid production from Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine, the Redskins enter the weekend averaging 130 rushing yards per game, good for seventh best in the NFL.
With Kelley listed as doubtful for Sunday, Thompson and Perine going up against this 49ers defensive front will certainly be a matchup to keep an eye on this weekend.