SANTA CLARA – Status quo is out the window for new 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini.
In his first season taking over for Vic Fangio, Mangini will have a lot of new players on the field. And during the offseason program, he is putting his own stamp on the team’s 3-4 scheme.
“All D-coordinators have their style,” 49ers safety Antoine Bethea said. “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.”
In Fangio’s four seasons in charge of the defense under coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers ranked in fourth, third, fifth and fifth in fewest total yards allowed. Fangio did it with a basic scheme in which mental mistakes and miscommunications were rarities.
The 49ers rarely blitzed, and the defense surrendered few big plays because everybody knew exactly what they were doing, as the team focused on a limited number of coverages.
As Bethea described it, the 49ers’ defense now features a lot of movement and many roles are gong to be interchangeable.
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“Everybody has to know what everybody else is doing,” Bethea said. “It could be different people doing different jobs. It could be a linebacker dropping inside and the next play we can switch that.”
There are a lot of different individuals in those jobs now. After being let go from the 49ers’ coaching staff, Fangio ended up as Chicago Bears defensive coordinator. And the only defensive starters who remain from the 49ers’ lineup in Super Bowl XLVII are linebackers Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks.
The 49ers’ ideal is to create confusion for the opposing offense, and that should lead to more big plays for the defense. However, it is also likely to create more confusion for the 11 players on defense and result in more big plays going the wrong direction, too.
“That’s what OTAs are for -- getting in the playbook and getting out there in front of the offense and doing different things and getting in the repetition and studying,” Bethea said. “And once the season comes, the coaches can fill it out, ‘OK, we do this well; we don’t do this as well.’ “
Coach Jim Tomsula has never served as an NFL defensive coordinator. Mangini, inside linebackers coach Clancy Pendergast, outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver and secondary coach Tim Lewis have previously worked as NFL defensive coordinators.
“Eric’s doing a wonderful job in this part of it and (with) the things we’re doing out on the field and the defense that we’re learning,” Tomsula said. “But now you also talk about Jason Tarver and you talk about Tim Lewis and Clancy. You get all those guys together in there and some of it, we’re trying (to figure out) who exactly are we, you know what I mean? And looking at some different things in coverage and looking at some different patterns and stuff like that.
“That’ll all settle down once we’re in, and again, it’s not like that’s something new. You’ve seen that here. You’ve seen that everywhere you go. OTAs, you put things in, you’ve got that time to put things in and kind of see what guys do better, so there’s a lot of that going on. But all those guys, that entire coaching staff, is really some good stuff.”
Mangini has been off-limits to speak publicly since he was promoted from tight ends coach in January. Tomsula has acted as the sole voice of the coaching staff. He said he will be responsible for every game plan and every decision on both sides of the ball.
“When you want to point a finger or blame, just point them all at me, OK?” Tomsula said. “Nobody has full autonomy. We’re all in this together. And I have a comment on offense, defense, special teams, player engagement. So if it’s on the field and you don’t like it, you don’t need to, you can just come see one guy.”