San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans spoke to the media for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. So, naturally, there were cliches. Ryan wants his defense to be fast and aggressive, as is the case with most new defensive coordinators.
In Ryans’ case, he made it a point to go out of his way to say how he’ll be different from Robert Saleh, and the players who spoke after Ryan hinted at the same. But, unfortunately, at least a month and a half until training camp, we'll still have to wait to see what wrinkles and blitzes Ryans uses.
Speaking of players, Ryans mentioned how the 49ers organization has a history of playing great defense. But, of course, it helps when you have the Jimmie’s and the Joe’s, or, in this case, the Freds and the Nicks. So I asked Ryans if there’s a player on defense that’s scratching the surface of breaking out or if there’s a positional battle that he’s looking forward to seeing during camp. Here’s what he said:
“Yeah, I think when you talk about young players who are on the verge of breaking out, I look at a young guy like [DL] Kevin Givens and the way he’s been working, it’s been outstanding to see him work. He’s getting better and better each day.
I mentioned Kinlaw earlier. He’s another player. He’s a second-year player who’s going to take a huge jump for us. When you look at another young player, I still see a young player talk about [LB] Dre Greenlaw and just how he’s developed. And he’s gotten better throughout these OTAs and I’m fired up to see his growth this year.
So those are three of the young guys that I see taking a huge jump this next year. And we have a lot of guys who are very vital to our defense when it comes to [DL Nick] Bosa. When it comes to Fred, Jason Verrett Jimmie Ward, you know, three guys who are very vital, important to our defense. [DL] Arik Armstead, you know, guys who have been here, leaders who will help guide this defense. This defense is theirs and I’m just here to help them go out and perform as good as they possibly can.”
Givens was a fascinating answer as that’s a name that hasn’t come up since March when he faced an assault charge in Baltimore.
Ryans mentioned Givens without any hesitation. When Kinlaw spoke after, he mentioned that Givens could do things that other defensive lineman simply don’t have the physical tools to do. If he’s practicing, I imagine San Francisco is planning on having Givens on the roster, and he’s in the clear of his league troubles. We’ll see if that remains the case come training camp.
Ryans named all of the good players on the Niners' defense as key cogs to their operation. Kinlaw is headed into Year 2, while Greenlaw enters Year 3. With Kinlaw, having OTAs and being in the building before June is night and day compared to his first offseason in the NFL.
Here’s what Ryans said about Kinlaw:
“Kinlaw is looking, he’s looking awesome. I think it’s really vital for him to really have these OTAs. And it’s been great that all our guys have showed up and we’ve been able to practice and Kinlaw was able to really hone in and focus on his techniques, which he missed. You know, coming in as a rookie, OTAs are very, very important. And for him to miss that time last year, I think this has been, he’s going to take a huge jump this year.
Just we’re able to slow things down and really emphasize footwork, hand placement, and technique, eyes. And he’s been doing an awesome job. I mean, I can already see how much better he’s gotten in the couple of weeks that we’ve been together.”
The 49ers are hoping to get more out of their ‘20 first-round pick. Kinlaw has all of the tools, but refining his technique and learning how to win weren’t things he could work on in this capacity last summer. That’s different this year, and we’ll find out quickly if the offseason work paid off for Kinlaw.