DeMeco Ryans explains how 49ers' linebackers room has vastly improved

DeMeco Ryans explains how 49ers' linebackers room has vastly improved

DeMeco Ryans has high expectations for the 49ers' linebackers going into the 2019 season with the key addition of Kwon Alexander and continued growth of Fred Warner. 

There is a sense of urgency for the 49ers defense to turn the corner after they added pass rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa to the team. Ryans, the team's linebackers coach, knows the bar is high for his group as they move forward from the departure of Reuben Foster. 

Bringing in someone like Alexander will be a big boost. 

“He’s been great for us because he brings a different type of energy,” Ryans said. “He brings swagger that I think we were kind of missing. He brings that edge that we needed. And he’s been great in our meeting rooms.” 

Alexander is still being held out of practice while he continues rehabbing his ACL with an expectation of being full-go at training camp. Ryans is confident he will assimilate seamlessly. He also noted that if Alexander had his way, he’d already be practicing. 

“He will get enough reps in training camp where he will get familiar with the system,” Ryans said. “He’s ready to go now, you kind of have to slow him down. He gets too excited, when guys make a play on the ball out there. 

“I’ve seen him a couple of days ago jumping up and I said, ‘Man, you’re ready to go right now, aren’t you?’” 

The 49ers have their eyes on Alexander right away at the beginning of free agency. He brings a set of different qualities that should thrive in Robert Saleh's defense.

“Athleticism, and speed when he hits someone in zone coverage, he knocks them back,” Ryans said. “He really brings a lot of speed to the defense.”  

Ryans also expects improvement from Warner going into his second season. The team put a lot of responsibility on him in the MIKE position and were impressed by his ability to handle the pressure. 

“He could take another step just now being a year in and everything kind of slowing down,” Ryans said. “Being a rookie, we asked a lot of him last year and he didn’t blink an eye. He was like, ‘Yeah I can do it, I can do it.’ 

“He’s very cerebral and can handle a lot. We want to take some of his plate a little bit and just let him go out and play fast. He’s mature and is going to succeed at whatever he does.”  

Though he's only a second-year pro, Warner's football inteligence and understanding of the defense jumps out right away.

“Sharp kid,” Ryans said. “He asks very good questions. If he asks a question sometimes you’re like, ’Man, I didn’t think about that.’ As a coach he keeps me on my toes, making sure I have all ends covered. It’s really good having a really smart guy in the room.” 

[RELATED: What Bosa is missing while being sidelined at 49ers OTAs]

Ryans likes the balance between the veterans and younger players in his group. He believes that their speed will be an important quality in 2019 as the improved pass rush forces opposing quarterbacks to get the ball out faster.

“We expect the quarterback’s process to speed up,” Ryans said. “We expect to not have to cover as long. We expect the ball to come out a lot quicker.” 

What 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan learned from his first football job


What 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan learned from his first football job

Kyle Shanahan is the son of two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Shanahan and widely is considered one of the brightest young minds in football.

But before the younger Shanahan could help build some of the best offenses at the NFL, he got his start in coaching at UCLA as a graduate assistant at the ripe age of 23.

"Back then, I was right out of college, so everything I wanted to show, I would put cleats on and try to demonstrate it," Shanahan told ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "You are still wanting to play, and it's neat because you are close in age to all those guys, so you can relate with them a lot more. But you're learning so much more, so you can help bring stuff to the table to them that you don't always have that connection as you get a lot older."

During the 2003 season, Shanahan spent time around running back Maurice Jones-Drew, tight end Marcedes Lewis and quarterback Drew Olson.

But Shanahan only spent one season with the Bruins before being hired by Jon Gruden to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive quality control coach in 2004.

"But I also didn't know as much then," Shanahan told Wagoner. "I was a GA and just getting into it. But I think you start to realize when you can help people and teach them stuff, and you can answer questions that help people, it doesn't matter whether you're a GA, a head coach, a quality control, a coordinator or whether you're talking to a walk-on or Maurice Jones-Drew or Marcedes Lewis. If you can say something that helps people and makes sense to them, they will respect you and listen to you.

"That's why I don't think appearance or age or whatever matters. It's if you know what you're talking about. That's why I don't think you have to be a guy who MFs people if you know what you're talking about. And I feel like I've always taken that from a young age and tried to be consistent with it."

[RELATED: Kocurek's craziness resonating with 49ers]

Before taking the 49ers head coaching job in 2017, Shanahan spent two seasons in Atlanta and built the Falcons into an offensive juggernaut. He hasn't been able to replicate that success in Santa Clara just yet, but the 49ers are trending upwards.

At just 39 years old, Shanahan has plenty of time left to leave his mark on the game of football.

New 49ers D-line coach Kris Kocurek might be right amount of crazy

New 49ers D-line coach Kris Kocurek might be right amount of crazy

During position drills at the beginning of each 49ers practice, defensive line coach Kris Kocurek’s gravelly voice can be heard from across the practice field. His antics may be seen as crazy to some, but to many of the players, it’s just the kind of crazy they need. 

At Arik Armstead’s Charity Gala in Sacramento during the offseason, several defensive players spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area about Kocurek and what he brings to the defensive line room. DeForest Buckner explained that Kocurek’s brand of crazy meshes perfectly with their group.

“We all got to be crazy to play this game,” Buckner said. “I’m just going to say that. We all got to have that little crazy in us. He’s a perfect fit for our room.

“It’s about consistency. He’s the same guy every day. We all know he’s passionate in everything he does. All he wants is to see is us succeed, so we respect it, we love it, we feed off of it when we go out there and practice. We want to be the best that we can be every day. That’s what he expects from us, that’s the standard and he’s just an amazing coach.”  

Armstead is heading into his fifth NFL season and notes that Kocurek has brought a new energy into the room. 

“It’s been great,” Armstead said. “He’s an amazing coach. He’s really passionate about the game, he wants us to be successful. He does seem a little crazy, but in a good way. He’s really motivating and pushing us to reach our full potential and be the best we can be. We’re really excited to have him and have him leading us.”  

Fellow lineman Ronald Blair detailed that what Kocurek brings isn’t just about football. He is helping the group in all aspects of their lives. 

“It really just changes the outlook for all of us as young guys,” Blair said. “He’s bringing something different. It’s not just about football with him. It’s about outside life, it’s about dealing with your family, it’s about everything that you put in, to just get to this point. 

“I’m just grateful to have him as a coach. He’s already done numbers in just the month or two being here. I've got nothing but respect for him. I’m looking forward to the future with him.”  

Defensive tackle Sheldon Day explained how Kocurek's intensity has changed the mood of the 49ers' defense line.

“He’s changed our room completely,” Day said. “He’s made us be more competitive with each other than we ever have been before. Every day is a competition, everyday we want to be our best, every day we’ve got to be better than the day before. 

"He’s making sure we stay on task, he’s making sure that we detail our work. He’s just bringing the best out of us. We’re definitely grateful to have him in the room.”  

Richard Sherman might not be a defensive lineman, but he already has seen a change in the defensive line group since Kocurek arrived. Kocurek’s yelling might seem brash to outsiders, but Sherman believes it’s specific and purposeful. 

“I've never met a person great at anything who wasn’t a little crazy,” Sherman said. “People look at the yelling and screaming as a negative thing. It’s not like he’s just yelling and screaming at guys, and that’s the difference between him and a lot of coaches who kind of take that style. 

“He’s yelling techniques. He’s yelling 'get off.' He’s yelling run to the ball. He’s not yelling M.F. and cursing at guys for making mistakes, he’s just yelling effort. The effort he’s giving, the guys are just trying to match. And that’s something you can get behind and something you can go with. 

“He’s teaching incredible techniques and every one of the D-linemen is saying they are benefitting from it. So you can just appreciate the energy and the amount of time that he spends and amount of effort that he spends every day just to get his guys ready.” 

[RELATED: 'Different Solomon' Thomas impressing 49ers teammates]

The addition of edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa already has raised the expectations for the defense. Kocurek's ability to fit all of the moving pieces together will be tested once the season begins.