49ers News: Javon Hargrave’s new signing makes the 49ers the team to beat in the NFC

John Lynch and the 49ers’ front office opened the legal manipulation phase with a bang after agreeing to a four-year, $84 million deal with standout defensive lineman Javon Hargrave.

That was a home run for the 49ers, who added one of the best free agents available to a defense that finished last season as the league’s number one spot. It’s the kind of move that can fundamentally change a team’s trajectory, and the addition of Hargrave has effectively made the 49ers the definite team to beat in the NFC for the foreseeable future.

To get a sense of just how crucial this signing is, we must first examine the situation Hargrave finds himself in. The 49ers had the most dominant defense in the league last season, with few areas to look at objectively and call weaknesses.

One of them was his ability to consistently generate pressure from within, as Arik Armstead was the only centre-back on the team to record more than 15 pressure points in the 2022 season. It’s even more worrisome considering Armstead had more than double the next player despite missing eight games through injury.

Overall, the 49ers had eight different center backs for a total of 88 appearances in the 2022 season. Hargrave had 66 himself.

What was most impressive about the pressure Hargrave generated last season was the consistency with which he performed. Hargrave recorded multiple strains in 19 of the 20 games he appeared in the 2022 season, with Hargrave recording three or more strains in 14 of those games.

Those numbers would be impressive for an edge rusher, but they’re just out of this world when you’re talking about a player who plays all of their snaps on the inside. To put that in perspective, Hargrave had five different games with at least five pressures in 2022, something only Nick Bosa and Charles Omenihu matched for the 49ers last season.

Even more impressive is the fact that Hargave’s consistent pass-rushing production spans multiple seasons as well. Hargrave has recorded multiple strains in 33 of the last 37 games he has played in, dating back to the start of the 2021 season.

Another thing that makes Hargrave so valuable is the ability he has to win from multiple points along the defensive line. One tech, 2i tech, three tech, it doesn’t matter. Hargrave is a game-changing force no matter where he’s deployed on defense.

Here are some examples of Hargrave winning from a variety of spots, starting with a wild three technique bull rush that resulted in a sack:

The 49ers love to shade their defensive tackles in the 2i technique, something Hargrave excelled at during his time with the Eagles. A rip move from Hargrave leads to a stripsack and a fumble recovery for Philadelphia’s defense here:

Where Hargrave really stands out is in the damage he’s able to do to centers when set up as a technique. The blast Hargrave has in his exit is something Center and inside staff generally don’t have to contend with. Check out this club move Hargrave uses in the middle from the one technique.

Here’s another replay from the same game, illustrating the discrepancy Hargrave presents when lined up across the middle:

Here’s another one that illustrates the incredible power and agility that Hargrave possesses.

While the blast Hargrave wields is priceless, it shouldn’t belittle his power. Take a look at this rep against Colts guard Quenton Nelson, who is arguably the best inside offensive lineman in the entire league. Watch how much power Hargrave can generate in this bull rush:

This combination of power and agility also translates very well to Hargrave’s influence as a run defender:

A true three down threat with the ability to take over a game at any moment, Hargrave has now been added to a defense riddled with blue chip players at all three tiers.

Not only does Hargrave give the 49ers an immediate boost, his departure from Philadelphia also significantly weakens the reigning conference champion. As of now, DraftKings Sportsbook has the 49ers as favorites to represent the NFC in next season’s Super Bowl.

For obvious reasons, we’ve never been able to fully appreciate just how big the gap was between the 49ers and the Eagles last season, but it would be more than fair to argue that Philadelphia was stronger in the trenches.

Hargrave is such an influential player that a lone substitution will give the 49ers the advantage should those two teams have a chance to strike back in next year’s postseason.

Despite the uncertainty at quarterback position, the addition of a player like Hargrave is a franchise change move that will cement the 49ers’ status as the gold standard in the conference until proven otherwise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *