49ers

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

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AP

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

SANTA CLARA – After spending the past three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, inside linebacker Brock Coyle knows how it is supposed to look.

And he believes the 49ers have gotten off to a good start under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who has installed a scheme based on the Seahawks’ blueprint.

“What’s really cool about this defense is if you look at Seattle, Jacksonville and Atlanta, they all have their different traits, their different personalties and their characteristics,” Coyle said. “And we’re building our own identity on defense.

“You see guys flying around and growing. And this was just our second regular-season game together in this defense.”

Saleh uses such terms as “all gas no brakes” and “extreme violence” to describe the kind of style he wants to see from his defense. In the 49ers’ 12-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers seemed to compete physically with the Seahawks for the first time in a long time.

On the first possession of the game, 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt set the tone when he separated Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham from the ball with a big hit. Graham was never a factor in the game, catching just one pass for 1 yard.

“If you’re looking from a progress standpoint, I don’t look at so much production as much as what it looks like on tape and the violence, the speed, attacking the ball, that’s what I’m excited about,” Saleh said.

The 49ers will have another chance on a quick turnaround to establish that identity on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster will miss his second game in a row with a high-ankle sprain. Ray-Ray Armstrong started against Seattle, alongside NaVorro Bowman, but Saleh said Coyle also fits into his plan.

Coyle entered the game at Seattle in the first half in place of Armstrong, and Saleh hinted he could use both players more interchangeably until Foster returns.

“He deserves it,” Saleh said of Coyle. “He works his tail off and he works hard and we wanted to make sure that we got him some more reps. And to be honest with you, I feel he should probably get a little bit more.

“He’s a great communicator and knows everybody’s job on the football field. He’s very, very strong at the point of attack and he is pretty athletic and fast.”

The 49ers' physicality is showing up on the early downs, as the defense leads the league in allowing just 2.7 yards per play on first downs. But the 49ers have to get a lot better on the down that matters most. The 49ers rank 23rd on third downs, allowing the opposition through two games to convert 46.9 percent of their opportunities.

“Third down is a major emphasis -- every week it is," Saleh said. "We faced 12 more plays than we needed to that first drive just because a lack of execution on that first third-down and 9. We were in great position to get off the field.

"We’ve got to tackle and that takes all 11 running to the ball because a lot of times that first guy does miss, but we can help ourselves a lot by being better on third down for sure.”

49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk finishes first in Pro Bowl fan voting

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USATSI

49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk finishes first in Pro Bowl fan voting

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was first in the final fan voting for the Pro Bowl at his position, the NFL announced on Saturday.

Juszczyk and DeForest Buckner were the only 49ers players to rank among the top-10 in the positional fan voting. Buckner garnered the ninth-most votes among NFL defensive tackles. Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams led all defensive tackles.

Juszczyk, in his first season with the 49ers, is seeking his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection. He was named to the All-Star team last season while a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Juszczyk received 361,196 votes. Jacksonville Jaguars fullback Tommy Bohanon was second with 139,297 votes.

Neither Joe Staley nor Trent Brown placed within the top 10 of offensive tackles. Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys was the leading vote-getter among tackles. Staley has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his 11-year career.

The 88 players selected for the game are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches – with each group’s votes counting one-third toward selection. The 2018 Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Tuesday.

Tank Carradine finally in 49ers system that fits his style

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AP

Tank Carradine finally in 49ers system that fits his style

SANTA CLARA -- In dire need of a pass-rush specialist, the 49ers selected Tank Carradine in the second round of the 2013 draft after he recorded 11 sacks in his final season at Florida State.

Five years later and scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March, Carradine has found his niche as a run-down specialist while lining up at “big end” in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

“At first, they didn’t think I could play the run like that,” Carradine said. “But I think once I got into a scheme that fits me, I showed that I’m capable of stopping the run in this defense.”

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh described Carradine as an “elite” defensive end playing on base downs lined up against the tight end. However, Carradine’s season was derailed in Week 3 when he sustained two torn ligaments in his right ankle against the Los Angeles Rams.

Carradine missed eight weeks and came back rusty against Seattle in Week 12. After sitting out one game, he showed his power in the run game last week with a strong defensive effort in a 26-16 win over the Houston Texans.

“It’s not all healed, but it’s healed enough,” Carradine said. “I know I got the power back. I’m not 100 percent. I’m good enough to play and finish off the season. I want to play. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s what I’ll do.”

Carradine has not played a snap on third down in the five games in which he has appeared this season. He believes he still has a lot to offer as an inside pass rusher, but his presence has been felt for a much-improved run defense.

Last season, the 49ers were the worst run defense in the NFL, yielding an average of 4.8 yards per rush attempt. This season, the 49ers are vastly improved. At 3.9 yards allowed per attempt, the 49ers’ run defense is No. 7 in the league.

It all makes sense, according to Carradine, because Saleh has installed a system that fits the players in the team's front seven.

“Because you had guys in a scheme that didn’t fit them,” Carradine said of last season’s problems. “Moving to a 4-3, we have guys who fit the scheme and can just attack, get up the field. Last year with the 3-4, it was reading and playing your keys. When we moved to a 4-3, we had more guys with 4-3 potential.”

Carradine’s weight hovered around 300 pounds to take on the demands of being a 3-4 defensive lineman. Now, he is down to 270 pounds, which is closer to his ideal playing weight. Carradine does not have a contract for next season, but he made it clear he wants to return and make a mark under the direction of a coaching staff that has finally figured out how to utilize his style of play.

“I want to be here. I love it here,” Carradine said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve only played five games this year and I didn’t get to show a whole lot.

“But, hopefully, I can finish strong these last couple of games and come back next year and play because I love this scheme. I’d love to come back next year and play for the 49ers. If not, I have to move on and try to go to a team with a scheme that fits me.”