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49ers D-coordinator Ryans promises aggressive play this year

NBC Sports
Fred Warner

SANTA CLARA -- The energy emanating from the defensive coordinator position on the 49ers’ sideline might be similar, but there are changes in the works on that side of the ball.

DeMeco Ryans spoke publicly Wednesday for the first time since being promoted to D-coordinator after Robert Saleh was hired as head coach of the New York Jets. He said he plans to bring a more aggressive approach this season.

“Our defense will be a fast, attacking, aggressive defense,” Ryans said after the 49ers held a practice during the second week of organized team activities.

“I want guys to play fast. I want guys who are smart. I want guys who are physical. That’s one thing for me, growing up watching the 49ers play defense, the defense has always stood out there. This has been a defensive organization. They played great defense in the past, and we want to continue that tradition.”

Ryans, 36, is not far removed from a 10-year career as an NFL linebacker with the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles. His last season as a player was 2015. He joined Kyle Shanahan’s initial coaching staff with the 49ers in 2017 in an entry-level position.

Ryans knows what he liked from his defensive coordinators as a player. And those thoughts will be at the front of his mind as he carries out his new duties after three seasons as the team’s linebackers coach.

Ryans said he will always lean toward calling defenses that excite his players -- while also keeping in mind what gives the 49ers the best tactical advantages against a given opponent.

 

“There is a healthy balance, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the players for me,” Ryans said. “It’s all about the players and what they can do. Not only what can they do but what can they excel at -- at a very high level to where they’re not overthinking things and they’re able to have their cleats in the ground and ready to play as fast as possible.

“And that’s one thing I’ve learned, going through playing and coaching for the past couple years, no matter what I know or what I want to do, it’s all about what the players can absorb and what they can go out and execute on the field.”

Ryans will not step into his new role and simply carry on what Saleh did during his four seasons as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. But Ryans said he might have learned more football from Saleh than any coach with whom he has been associated in his football career, so there will also be large portions of the defense of previous seasons that will continue to be deployed.

“You will see some similarities there, but you will see some wrinkles,” Ryans said. “You will see my brand of football on it.

"We're going to play off our defensive line. We're going to let our D-line just get off the ball and attack, and we're going to clean up things behind them. But we will be a more aggressive, attacking defense.”

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One similarity will certainly be the enthusiasm on the sideline. Ryans might not be as maniacal as Saleh on the sideline, but he will encourage his players to celebrate big plays.

He plans to do the same.

“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," Ryan said.

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