Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

49ers defense could get more aggressive under new coordinator DeMeco Ryans

Jun 2, 2021 at 2:43 PM--

What will the 49ers defense look like now that DeMeco Ryans is in charge?

There will undoubtedly be some similarities on that front to what was seen under former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, but Ryans wants to bring his own touches to the defense, starting with a more aggressive approach.

"Our defense will be a fast, attacking, aggressive defense," Ryans told reporters Wednesday in his first media session since being named defensive coordinator in January after Saleh took over as head coach of the New York Jets. "I want guys to play fast. I want guys who are smart. I want guys who are going to play physical."

In particular, Ryans wants to unleash the talent the 49ers have on defense up front. Ryans expects the defensive line to set the tone for the defense, while the linebackers and secondary deal with the aftermath.

"I want to be known as an attacking defensive line," Ryans said. "Our D-Line is going to attack. Our linebackers and secondary, they're going to play with base fundamentals. We're going to play off our D-Line. We're going to allow our D-Line to get off the ball and attack, we're going to clean up things behind them, but we will be a more aggressive, attacking defense."

In terms of the specifics, 49ers fans can expect to see some of what they saw when Saleh was in command. But anyone expecting Ryans to simply do a copy-paste of what was seen during the Saleh era might be in for a surprise.

"I am my own person," Ryans said. "Saleh has taught me a lot -- probably one of the coaches that's taught me the most football that I've been around. He's been very integral to my development as a coach, and I can't thank him enough for all the things he's instilled in me. So there will be some of the similar scheme things that we've done in the past. You will see some similarities there, but you will see some wrinkles. You will see my brand of football on it."

Ryans will be doing his gameday work from the sidelines, just as Saleh did when he was the coordinator. But will he be as animated as Saleh was when his players make big plays? Probably not, but he won't be standing still either.

"We'll have to wait and see on that," Ryans said. "Just naturally as a competitor, if my guys make a play, I'm going to be excited. I'm going to be enthusiastic about that play. That's just who I am as a person, and that's what I encourage my guys to be as well. Be enthusiastic. When your teammate makes a play, For me, as a coach, it won't play. When I see a player make a play, no matter who it is, I'm going to be fired up for that player because I'm so happy he was able to execute and make a big play."

Ryans will also have tradition in mind when getting his defense ready for the upcoming season. He knows the 49ers have had some outstanding defenses with elite players over the years, and he'll be hoping his unit lives up to those standards.

"Growing up watching the 49ers defense, the defense always stood out here," Ryans said. "This has been a defensive organization. They played great defense in the past and we just want to continue that tradition of playing aggressive defense. And we want guys to be precise in what they're doing. We want guys to know the details of their job (and) be able to be on their fundamentals because in this league, where we are right now, everyone is good, but you separate yourself when you focus in on the small, minor details and hone in on the fundamentals of your job. When you're doing that and when you're executing your fundamentals on a high level, we're going to be a really great defense."

Will there be any pressure for Ryans this season? Saleh does leave some big shoes to fill, but Ryans told reporters Wednesday he's been preparing for years for the opportunity he has now and will be prepared enough that he won't feel any pressure when the season gets underway.

"It's like playing. You get those butterflies before you run out of the tunnel," Ryans said. "But is there pressure? There's no pressure. There's no pressure, but it's just, have you prepared yourself for the moment? I think for me, it's just putting in the work now and in the offseason, putting in the work during the season. You just put the work in to put yourself in a position where prepared as possible for each week."

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