3 differences 49ers defense may employ under DeMeco Ryans
By Peter Panacy
No. 3: 49ers may employ much more Cover 4 looks
For the bulk of Robert Saleh’s tenure, the Niners used a Cover 3 scheme with a single-high safety, two boundary zone cornerbacks and the strong safety down in the box. This approach generally works when defenses have elite-level pass-rushers and high-caliber defensive backs, yet San Francisco lacked those in Saleh’s first two years.
So it’s no surprise he employed more traditional Cover 2 looks with his safeties being more interchangeable.
To guard against some of the more wide-open offenses the 49ers may encounter, particularly from the Arizona Cardinals, DeMeco Ryans may try to use more Cover 4 looks with the two safeties (Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt) being responsible for the areas around the hash marks, while the boundary corners handle duties outside of the numbers.
For a quick understanding on the varients of Cover 4 schemes, check out this breakdown from Bleacher Report.
This takes the pressure off the safeties, which might be a bonus, given Ward and Tartt’s injury histories, yet without asking cornerbacks to cover too much ground — another added need, given the fact the Niners added two rookies here this offseason, Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir.
The trick, however, is having an elite-level MIKE linebacker to cover those crucial over-the-middle spots of the field where quarterbacks love to target.
Fortunately, San Francisco has arguably the best in the NFL in Fred Warner, and it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Ryans maximize Warner’s pass-coverage skills in this way.