4 reasons why 49ers coordinator DeMeco Ryans impressed us in 2021
By Peter Panacy
Reason No. 3: DeMeco Ryans has helped negate 49ers weaknesses at cornerback
All year long, one of the 49ers’ primary defensive concerns has been at cornerback. It’s been a relative rotating door, too, with veteran corners like Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Norman coming, going and seeing their respective roles change on a frequent basis.
The issues weren’t helped much either, especially with the slow maturation of rookie third-round NFL Draft pick Ambry Thomas, who was inactive for much of the first half of the year, and then injuries to veteran cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, the latter at least returning from an ankle sprain.
True, opponents have regularly targeted players like Thomas and Norman when possible, yet DeMeco Ryans has shown the ability to adjust here, too, as described by Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey after the Niners’ overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this season:
"I thought it was one of DeMeco Ryans’ best-coached games yet. They attempted to cover the Bengals wideouts in man coverage, and that didn’t work. But, once the 49ers get to third down, Ryans has been aggressive when it comes to blitzing and playing man coverage behind it. Ryans adjusted instead of being hard-headed and running something that you know wouldn’t work. San Francisco ran 19 Cover-2 snaps against Cincinnati. That’s more than they ran in their previous 12 games combined. The goal was to keep everything in front of you and make Burrow beat you underneath."
Ryans still doesn’t blitz much, San Francisco blitzed just 19.8 percent of the time, which was fourth lowest in the league.
But the bigger kicker is the fact, that while the 49ers are still viewed as vulnerable in the secondary, Ryans’ defense still surrendered just 3,510 passing yards during the regular season.
That was sixth best in the league, providing a proverbial “thumb to the nose” to anyone suggesting the Niners’ pass defense isn’t good.