49ers Looking to ‘Cause Confusion’ on Defense in 2015

By Vincent Frank

One of the only knocks on former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was that he ran a pretty bland scheme. Potentially because of the team’s elite talent on defense, Fangio didn’t run many blitzes during his tenure in San Francisco. He also relied a great deal on man coverage on the outside with a basic 3-4 set putting pressure on the quarterback.

Considering the immense amount of talent San Francisco’s defense lost over the past couple months, new coordinator Eric Mangini might not have the same luxury this year.

And the team knows it. Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea had this to say about the scheme Mangini is looking to implement in 2015:

“All D-coordinators have their style,” the veteran defensive back said, via CSN Bay Area. “Coach Mangini, his thing is we’re going to cause confusion. The opposing offense isn’t going to know what we’re going to be able to do each down. It could be bringing the pressure. It could be dropping eight into coverage. But it’s just keeping the offense on their heels. However, you want to look at it, I think it’s going to be a good deal for our defense.”

Despite losing starting linebackers Chris Borland and Patrick Willis to retirement, the 49ers’ front seven should be in decent shape, especially if they plan on running blitzes and stunt packages. Aldon Smith, Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks and rookie Eli Harold will provide a ton of pressure from the edge. Meanwhile, 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate NaVorro Bowman returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

In addition to this, San Francisco boasts some solid depth on its defensive line. Rookie first-round pick Arik Armstead joins veteran Darnell Dockett as new additions to that unit. Glenn Dorsey also returns after missing the entire 2014 campaign. Teaming up with youngsters Tank Carradine, Ian Williams and Quinton Dial, this unit shouldn’t miss a step after losing Justin Smith to retirement.

However, it’s San Francisco’s cornerback play that could be an issue here. If the team is planning on amping up the pressure in the front seven, that could expose a tremendous weakness. The 49ers lost both starting corners, Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver, to free agency. They also didn’t address the position in the draft. Putting the likes of Dontae Johnson, Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright out there on an island could be troublesome.

Either way, it should be interesting to see how Mangini schemes against opposing offenses during the 2015 season. After all, he’s filling some rather big shoes. San Francisco finished in the top five in total defense in each of Fangio’s four seasons with the team. That’s going to be a hard act to follow.

Photo: USA Today Sports