Let's set the stage: The 49ers, in need of a midseason boost, make a splash at the NFL trade deadline by acquiring a star player who can help take their team to the next level.
That player in question could be Chase Young in 2023 or Christian McCaffrey in 2022 according to NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Donte Whitner, who believes San Francisco's latest acquisition will unlock the 49ers' defense just like the All-Pro running back enhanced the offense last season.
"Adding Chase Young to the 49ers' defense will unlock the potential similarly to what Christian McCaffrey did for the 49ers' offense last year," Whitner said on the latest edition of "Hitner's Hot Take" after the 49ers' 34-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Bay Area and California sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
"When 49ers general manager John Lynch made the trade for Chase Young, he instantly upgraded the 49ers' defensive line. And on Sunday, it was on for display."
Prior to the trade deadline, the 49ers' defensive line failed to meet expectations as a highly paid unit stacked with stars including Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave. Lynch's effort to give defensive coordinator Steve Wilks even more to work with when trying to pressure opposing quarterbacks worked out well in Sunday's win, with San Francisco sacking Jacksonville signal-caller Trevor Lawrence five times.
Young finished his first game as a 49er with two quarterback hurries and 0.5 sacks, the latter of which came alongside former Ohio State teammate Nick Bosa. The improvements up front had a ripple effect in the defensive backfield, as pointed out by Whitner.
"The 49ers' defensive line came away with five sacks, and they were the catalyst for the four turnovers that the 49ers' defense forced," Whitner continued. "Young is the most physically gifted defensive end to align opposite Nick Bosa since Kyle Shanahan has been the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers."
San Francisco 49ers
McCaffrey's physical traits and attention to detail made him arguably the best running back Shanahan has coached when the 27-year-old arrived in Santa Clara after last season's trade deadline. San Francisco went on to win 15 consecutive regular-season games once McCaffrey became their starter, and the Stanford product crushed countless 49ers and NFL records along the way.
Whitner predicts Young similarly could serve as a kick starter for another playoff run for San Francisco this season thanks to his overall impact on the field.
"Young's ability to play strong in the run game, set the edge and consistently beat one-on-one protection will be key for the 49ers' defense, and there's no group out there happier than the 49ers' secondary," Whitner said. "They were able to consistently sit on routes versus the Jacksonville Jaguars because they knew that the ball was coming out within two-and-a-half seconds with the acquisition of Young.
"And with the duo of Buckeye defensive ends, this move instantly catapults the 49ers' defensive line to No. 1 in the entire NFL."