Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Why Kyle Shanahan has ‘high expectations’ for the 49ers defense in 2021

Aug 1, 2021 at 9:39 AM--

Not only did the San Francisco 49ers have to navigate a pandemic in 2020, to the point of eventually calling Arizona, not the Bay Area, home, but the team endured one of the most injury-plagued campaigns we've witnessed in the last two decades. While no one is using that as an excuse, coaches and players know that a healthy 49ers roster can compete with anyone. That's why everyone is so excited about this year.

Despite the team's struggles during last season's six-win campaign, head coach Kyle Shanahan expects big things from the 49ers defense in 2021.

"I've got very high expectations for our defense," Shanahan told NFL Network's Steve Mariucci on Saturday. "I think we've got a great coaching staff, great players. The injuries that we went through last year, and them to still be a top-five defense, I thought it was very impressive of them."

The 49ers defense did indeed finish the 2020 season ranked No. 5 in total yards allowed. It also ranked No. 4 against the pass and No. 7 against the run. However, San Francisco is transitioning to a new defensive coordinator. Robert Saleh, who served in the role the last four years, is now the New York Jets head coach. DeMeco Ryans replaces him.

"I think we've added some guys to improve ourselves," Shanahan continued. "I think DeMeco being here these four years with Saleh, he's more than ready. DeMeco has been very impressive throughout OTAs, throughout training camp, and I feel very fortunate to have him."

One of Ryans' returning players is pass rusher Nick Bosa, the 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Bosa suffered an ACL injury during Week 2 last season, and his absence had a domino effect on the unit.

Bosa has been practicing this past week. Although, he has not yet taken part in team drills as the 49ers are being careful with his return.

"Very careful," Shanahan added. "I feel like Nick's been developed as a pass rusher since I think he was about three years old. So we're making sure that one's right. You don't have to really worry about Nick and football. I mean, he thinks about that 24/7. That's all he does, and he's doing some good stuff in individual (drills), but we're going to be patient before we put him in some team periods."

The 49ers have today off and will return to the practice field tomorrow morning.

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