Niners Make Change With Defensive Line Coach

New hire, formerly with Dolphins and Lions, will need to generate more consistent production from linemen, including No. 1 picks Thomas and Armstead

Over 16 games, the 49ers’ defense produced 37 sacks, tied for 22nd in the NFL. But 12 of those were delivered by defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. So, the rest of the unit averaged just 1.5 sacks per game

The pass rush off the edge was sporadic, with defensive ends Ronald Blair and Cassius March each contributing 5½ sacks. First-round picks Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas combined for just four.

Though the 49ers declined to say why defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina was fired this week, the production of the pass rush certainly could be a factor, as could the slow progress of Thomas, who had one sack and 31 tackles in 16 games in 2018. As the 49ers now work toward 2019, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan knows his team must put much better pressure on opposing quarterbacks if the 49ers want to go from 4-12 to contenders in the NFC West.

Yet Chris Kiffin, pass-rush specialist assistant, remains on Shanahan’s staff. Against the run, the 49ers were much better, allowing just two backs to rush for 100 or more yards and ranking 14th in rushing yards per attempt.

Now Kiffin will be joined by Kris Kocerek, who will take over Zgonina’s duties, reports Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group.

Kocerek served as Miami Dolphins defensive line coach in 2017-2018. The Dolphins had even fewer sacks than the 49ers in 2018, with 31.

But, as Inman pointed out, Kocerek previously worked in the same role with the Detroit Lions from 2009 through 2016, where he worked with current 49ers executive Martin Mayhew and a pair of defensive linemen – Ziggy Ansah and Ndamukong Suh – who could be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Ansah has had seasons of 14 and 12 1/2 sacks, and Suh is a three-time All-Pro in the Rams lineup.

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