San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans spoke with reporters after Day 13 of the 49ers training camp. He responded to his first question addressing the signing of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. “Ha Ha is a guy who’s competed in this league, started in this league, and played good ball in the league, so looking to add some depth at that position.”
Ryans was asked if he rewards players in meeting rooms after takeaways or interceptions.
“Everything we do is about taking the ball away. That’s the main focus in a defense. If we get turnovers, we take the ball away, our chances of winning that game goes up tremendously so that’s always my main focus on how are we attacking the ball and how many turnovers are we getting every day.
Last season, the 49ers’ defense generated 20 turnovers with 12 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries—just seven fewer from the elite defense in 2019.
Nick Mullens had 18 turnovers himself, decimating San Francsico’s turnover ratio. The Niners finished third-worst in the league (-11) in turnover differential in 2020. Clearly, the offense has to be safer with the ball.
Reverting back to the defense, turnovers will increase if the pass-rush can get home. Arik Armstead will have to contribute to that. The defensive line group is deep, but there isn't much proven pass-rush productivity outside of Armstead, Dee Ford, and Nick Bosa and that was 2019.
Adding Clinton-Dix, who has 16 interceptions in 96 regular-season games, can also be a factor in adding the turnover total. However, the opportunities to play will be immediate hence the injured safety room.
Getting turnovers is a team effort. This years 49er defense is suited to be pretty good. If the offense protects the ball, the Niners can see themselves with a positive turnover differential. In 2020, every team with a +4 turnover ratio went to the playoffs, not to mention it's the same margin the team had in their Super Bowl run. So turnovers being a major focus for the defense will put San Francisco on a Super Bowl path.