SANTA CLARA — Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, Kwon Alexander and Jason Verrett are usually not the one additions designed to improve the 49ers protection this 12 months.
Meet Kris Kocurek and Joe Woods, crucial hires as place coaches for the defensive position and secondary, respectively.
Kocurek’s impassioned directions, full with F-bombs, have gotten customary affair on the apply fields, whereas Woods, previously the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, is extra subdued but diligent in repairing a sub-par secondary.
All of which ought to poise defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for his unit’s most success in three seasons since coach Kyle Shanahan employed him.
Shanahan’s defensive assistants met with the media after Wednesday’s organized workforce actions, so let’s play 20 questions, with 10 apiece for Kocurek and Woods contained in the Levi’s Stadium auditorium:
First up is Kocurek, a 40-year-old whose ardour for line play resembles that of ex-49ers line czar Jim Tomsula. Kocurek coached the Detroit Lions line for 9 seasons earlier than doing so final 12 months with the Miami Dolphins. He succeeds Jeff Zgonina.
1. By way of your fashion, has it all the time been extraordinarily intense on the sphere and is that the way you need it to hold over with guys taking part in with their hair on hearth?
“That’s simply sort of the way in which I’ve all the time been, going again to after I first laced them up in middle-school soccer. I put my cleats on, walked out on the sphere, my coronary heart began racing, I began sweating and I simply hit it with my hair on hearth, going as quick as I can go, as laborious as I can go.
“I attempt to deliver the power on the market at apply. I don’t essentially assume the gamers all the time want it. Generally throughout the canine days, they may want it and I’ll attempt to deliver it as a lot as I can.”
2. What was your preliminary impression of the 49ers linemen?
“I noticed a proficient entrance, lots of versatility that can be utilized in numerous spots in keeping with completely different conditions. I noticed a troublesome group that performed bodily and laborious, it’s one of many causes that introduced me right here.”
3. What do you see with Dee Ford’s addition?
“Properly clearly his skill to hurry the quarterback on third down. His takeoff is likely one of the greatest within the sport. He’s actually fast out of his stance, can get on tackles actually quick and he’s actually beginning to come into his personal right here. Final 12 months was a giant 12 months for him, what he was in a position to do as a go rusher. His physicality on the sting as a run defender, additionally, goes underappreciated, together with lots of go rushers within the NFL. He also can play the run, too. The principle factor is his go rush. That’s the place he butters his bread.”
4. Do you see Ford’s addition liberating up Buckner inside, and what do you wish to see Buckner enhance on this 12 months?
“First, nice rushers complement one another. When you have a number of, three or 4, go rushes get stronger, and the extra sources different groups need to allocate to cease these guys from attending to the quarterback. Second, Buck clearly had a extremely, actually good 12 months final 12 months and it’s only a matter of fine-tuning little particulars with him. Simply attempting to get somewhat bit higher. He’s not going to take enormous bounce, like a man going from his rookie 12 months to the second 12 months. Proper now it’s simply little issues with Buck, simply sharpen that axe somewhat bit extra daily, get somewhat bit sharper together with his method, possibly somewhat tighter together with his arms, somewhat decrease together with his pad stage.”
5. How has Solomon Thomas improved?
“Because the day I arrived right here, I see a participant with a chip on his shoulder, a participant with a glance in his eye that he’s able to take the subsequent step. Everybody wants to understand Solomon continues to be a younger participant. He’s going into his third 12 months. After they say NFL gamers often take their largest bounce going from their second to 3rd 12 months. Primarily based off the way in which he’s been working, whether or not or not it’s within the classroom with movie research, within the weight room after which on the apply area, he’s obtained that look in his eye. He’s able to get higher. Clearly final 12 months was a tough 12 months; he needed to undergo lots of stuff. He’s lined that with you all. That’s not simple on a participant at any place. He overcame it and he’s going to be stronger due to it. On the time it’s laborious for him to see. Solomon is likely one of the hardest staff we now have.”
6. What did your analysis on Thomas uncover?
“Primarily based on what you see on movie, Solomon is a man that wishes to do every part precisely proper. You see a participant that has versatility, that may play outdoors, and in sure conditions you may slide him inside and make the most of his quickness and velocity. I didn’t wish to take that aspect away as a result of he’s a flexible participant. What I wished to do with him is attempt to simplify issues, take a lot info that’s coming into his mind and attempt to slender issues down and get him to play as quick as he presumably can, realizing that errors are going to be made alongside the way in which. I need these errors being made taking part in quick, taking part in aggressive not considering an excessive amount of and paralyzing your self as a participant. He’s taken to that and is doing a extremely, actually good job.”
7. What’s the hallmark of a Kris Kocurek defensive position?
“Aggressive, bodily, a gaggle you see 4 D-linemen on the sphere pursuing the ball wherever it’s on the sphere, attempting to be the hardest-playing place group within the Nationwide Soccer League, a gaggle that performs collectively, a gaggle that’s unselfish, a gaggle that whenever you see on the sphere they’re taking part in with their hair on hearth.
“We’ll clearly use the 9-technique, together with different fronts. It gained’t be all simply 9 strategies. We’ll make the most of regardless of the sport plan requires us to win the sport that week.”
8. What do you want concerning the wide-9 method?
“The sting-setting skill that groups that wish to get in your perimeter, you may set a bodily edge within the run sport, and it offers you a greater angle to hurry the passer on first and second down, than somewhat tighter alignment in a 6-technique. We’ll use a few of the different fronts. It gained’t be all 9-technique.”
9. How can Nick Bosa (out with a hamstring pressure) reap the benefits of these OTAs?
“He must get as many psychological reps as he presumably can, watching the opposite guys. It’s laborious when a man will get nixed as much as put himself in a play, however that’s what he has to do proper now as a result of he can’t get out their bodily. Put your self in a play from the play name, he sees the formation, sees the place he strains up, will get on his keys and sees how he would react to the scenario like he was in there.”
10. How rapidly can Nick Bosa get again in soccer kind?
“He’ll get again fairly rapidly. He comes from a Large Ten faculty with a excessive stage of competiion. He’s been at a excessive stage of competitors principally his complete life. As soon as we get him again in there, he’ll combine and be simply positive.”
* * *
Joe Woods, 48, entered the NFL in 2004 as defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the identical time Shanahan began his NFL profession as their offensive high quality management coach. Woods additionally coached with the Minnesota Vikings (2006-13) and Raiders (2014) earlier than becoming a member of the Denver Broncos (2015-16 secondary coach, 2017-18 defensive coordinator).
1. Drawing out of your profession, how does a go rush assist the secondary?
“It’s all the time rush and protection. From wherever I’ve been, going again to Tampa Bay to Minnesota, it’s all the time about rush and protection. That’s how we lived in Denver that first 12 months (2015), made it to the massive sport. Right here, the group, John Lynch and Kyle did a fantastic job in free company and placing the items collectively within the draft. Now I undoubtedly really feel we now have the surface rushers and inside rushers, and I really feel we now have excellent depth and expertise within the secondary.”
2. Once you began in Tampa (2004), John Lynch had simply left (as a security). Once you confirmed movie from the earlier 12 months, was John all around the movie?
“There’s no query. It’s bizarre whenever you assume again to Tampa. It’s a type of iconic defenses. However that entire security place, the protection being down within the field, it’s due to John Lynch. We needed to change as a result of groups began to trace ‘The place’s Lynch? If he’s on this aspect, he’s coming down this manner; if he’s on that aspect, he’s coming down that method.’ He’s only a legend down in Tampa. Now to work for him, he’s only a nice particular person. He’s a soccer man, is aware of what we undergo and he’s been nice for me to date.”
3. How good was that Tampa employees?
“It was a enjoyable journey. I used to be down there with Monte Kiffin, I went to Minnesota with Mike Tomlin. Coached with Joe Barry, Rod Marinelli, Raheem Morris. All these guys got here by way of Tampa, so it was Gus Bradley, Todd Walsh, coach (Robert) Saleh. All of them had that Tampa mentality. All of us communicate the identical language.”
4. Didn’t Shanahan sit in with you defensive guys, too?
“Completely, Shanny was with us. He was nonetheless a soccer geek. You would inform he was undoubtedly – it was all about him getting expertise as a place coach and coordinator – however you knew sooner or later in time he was going to be a head coach.”
5. What did you consider your group whenever you got here right here (as defensive backs coach and passing sport coordinator)?
“Excellent expertise. Clearly the harm historical past is there. However as a coach, you may’t take into consideration that. Once I evaluated guys with completely different groups, like I keep in mind (security Jaquiski) Tartt popping out, I assumed he was proficient and was, ‘Man, I want we might draft him.’ Similar factor with Jimmie Ward. Colbert was my late-round, steal man I used to be sitting on. After they drafted him right here, I known as a pair guys I knew and stated, ‘Man, you bought my man!’ Teaching Sherman … I used to be accustomed to Spoon as a result of I used to be in Denver (Ahkello Witherspoon performed on the College of Colorado). The fellows I actually wished to teach and was curious about, they’re all right here within the room, so it’s on me as a coach to get these guys prepared and I’m as much as the problem.”
6. What to make of Tarvarius Moore’s swap again to security from cornerback?
“The factor you need to watch out of with guys like that, is that you simply don’t attempt to get an excessive amount of out of them. Similar factor with Jimmie (Ward). In case you skinny them out an excessive amount of, they actually don’t develop right into a place.
“So early on, I undoubtedly wished to work with him at nook. And he was coming alongside at nook. However with the harm to Jimmie, we simply felt it was the perfect factor for the workforce and for him to maneuver him again to security, as a result of it was his pure place. First day he got here out, interception. I like every part he can do athletically.”
7. How do Moore’s velocity and measurement make him versatile?
“It’s very uncommon, of all the blokes I’ve evaluated over my profession within the NFL, you’re going to see corners that possibly are lacking one thing that you simply transfer to security, however you very not often see a security that has the skillset to can transfer to nook. I believe the Flowers child from Oklahoma State that’s in Seattle, he made that transition. T-Moore has that skill.”
8. What did you see of the mindset of men who’ve skilled highs and lows like Adrian Colbert and Ahkello Witherspoon?
“What occurs is whenever you’re not successful, you begin urgent. I watched Colbert each single snap, very first thing I did after I obtained right here. You take a look at the tape the 12 months earlier than, he was simply sitting again and taking part in his method. However then final 12 months, he began urgent, attempting to make performs and are available out of the put up. That’s the worst factor you are able to do as a secondary participant — press to make performs, whatever the scenario. The place Colbert and for Spoon, that’s what they each tried to do, they usually put themselves in unhealthy place. They’ve simply obtained to exit, do the perfect they plan and make the performs they’re alleged to make, interval.”
9. What was the perfect and worst components of being a defensive coordinator?
“Properly, the worst half is clearly you wished to do higher. You don’t ever wish to get fired from a job. I perceive it, simply from being there in Denver, it’s all about wins on this league, what have you ever completed for me these days. And I wasn’t in a position to get that completed as a coordinator. I’ve obtained to take a look at that as one thing to study from. That was the robust half. However the enjoyable half is whenever you coach a gaggle of men and also you get them collectively and also you inspire them they usually exit on sport day and carry out the protection the way in which you wish to see it, that was enjoyable.”
10. What’s your impression of how Saleh treats the protection?
“Saleh’s a fantastic man, very educated. I knew about him as a result of all of us sort of got here from the identical (Tampa 2-scheme) household. It was actually a fantastic alternative to work with him and study the defensive scheme. Thus far it’s been nice. He is aware of about all three ranges of this protection.