One player is often overlooked when talking about the 49ers’ pass rush. However, with a strong end to 2021, Samson Ebukam is looking to break out in 2022.
In the 2021 off-season, the Niners were coming off an extremely disappointing 6-10 campaign in 2020. With Dee Ford coming off an injury-riddled season where he played part of one game, the 49ers needed to find somebody for insurance. The Niners found themselves in the market for a pass rusher and needed someone who could start on the opposite side of Nick Bosa. Which led to the addition of Samson Ebukam.
San Francisco targeted Samson Ebukam in an attempt to fill this hole as well as to weaken their rivals, the Los Angeles Rams. Ebukam was a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington, and after four under-utilized seasons with the Rams, the 49ers circled him as one of their primary free agent targets to improve their pass rush.
Although Ebukam started slow, by the end of the season he became one of the major reasons why the 49ers’ defense helped turn the year around.
In his tenure with the Rams, Ebukam had sack totals of two, three, and 4.5 twice in four seasons. The 49ers then signed him to a 2-year deal worth up to 13.5 million dollars with incentives and thought that moving him from outside linebacker in a 3-4 system to a defensive end position in a 4-3 system would unlock his full potential.
Ebukam’s 49ers Career So Far
Ebukam’s first year in San Francisco started slow. In his first 12 games, he had one sack, 24 tackles, and two tackles for a loss. The signing of Ebukam looked to be a bust. However, something changed for him.
From Week 12 until the end of the regular season, he became one of the 49ers’ best defensive players. He accounted for a sack in four of his last five games (3.5 total), along with three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
In the playoffs, Ebukam played even better. Against the Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card matchup, Ebukam had half a sack. Against the Packers, in the NFC Divisional Round, he had a sack with three tackles and one tackle for a loss. Then against his former team, the Rams, Ebukam in the NFC Championship Game had half a sack, three tackles, and two quarterback hits.
Overall in 20 games, Ebukam had 6.5 sacks, 46 tackles, 15 QB hits, and six tackles for a loss. Those stats don’t sound like much but over his last eight games, he had 5.5 sacks, 22 tackles and four tackles for a loss. Over a 17-game sample that comes out to around 12 sacks, 47 tackles and eight and a half tackles for loss. Those numbers stack up to anybody.
What To Expect From Ebukam in 2022
Entering his second season in the 49ers system, and heading into his final season before unrestricted free agency, Ebukam has plenty to prove. Having a career year will provide Ebukam with a significant chance to get a big payday next off-season.
With the addition of rookie second-round pick Drake Jackson, Ebukam has competition around him. The key for him and any player is health. Ebukam is the definition of health as he’s played in 81 out of 81 games.
If Ebukam can give the 49ers nine sacks, around 50 tackles, and ten plus tackles for loss, the 49ers’ defensive line will be the best in the league along with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, and more.
Ebukam’s 49ers Future?
If Ebukam breaks out, it will be interesting to see what the 49ers do. The 49ers may let him go and move Drake Jackson into his spot. San Francisco is a factory for producing pass rushers. They’ll be able to find a replacement for him if need be.
DeMeco Ryans may be hired as a head coach for another team this off-season and with the 49ers’ yearly tradition of losing coordinators to head coaching positions, Ebukam shouldn’t have to worry too much about his future if he produces.