With just 28 sacks last season, the 49ers had one of the worst pass rushes in franchise history.
Coach Chip Kelly promises new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil will scheme up ways to get after opposing quarterbacks in 2016.
“I think his package is likable, it's learnable, it's aggressive,” Kelly said Friday on KNBR 680-AM's "Murph and Mac" show. “We're going to get after the quarterback. It's a quarterback-driven league, and you have to disrupt the timing of the quarterback or you're going to get picked apart.”
In order to beef up the pass defense, the 49ers spent more resources on improving the back end.
The 49ers selected cornerbacks Will Redmond, Rashard Robinson and Prince Charles Iworah in the draft to go along with returning cornerbacks Tramaine Brock, Kenneth Acker, Dontae Johnson, Marcus Cromartie and Keith Reaser.
The team wanted to build more depth and competition at cornerback to be able to withstand the requirements of O’Neil’s system, Kelly suggested.
“It relies on a lot of man coverage on the back end, that's why we got a couple more corners here in the draft, to go along with the players we already have,” Kelly said. “But it's an aggressive, attacking style. The system is very learnable, and I think our players have really grasped it here in the short time that we've been together.”
Kelly said he ultimately selected O’Neil to lead the defense because of his ability to convey his message to the players. O’Neil was offered the job after Houston assistant Mike Vrabel reportedly turned down the 49ers’ offer.
“I think the best coaches have the ability to get their knowledge to their players,” Kelly said. “And everything I heard about Jimmy, that kind of shown through. And that's what I've seen here in the three or four months we've been working together.”
O’Neil spent two seasons as Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator. His defense ranked eighth in the league in pass defense in 2014 before falling to 22nd in 2015. The Browns had one of the least-effective pass rushes in the NFL both seasons, recording 31 sacks in ’14 and 29 sacks last year.