San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh breaks down the 49ers defense
The 49ers players aren’t the only ones practicing their game-day craft this spring.
New defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who never has been a coordinator and who hasn’t called plays before, has been honing his skills as well, especially during the move-the-ball period the 49ers run each practice.
In those sessions, the coaches and extra players clear the field and Saleh transmits the plays through his headset to the defender with the radio receiver in his helmet, which is linebacker NaVorro Bowman when it comes to the first-team defense.
Afterward, Saleh said he might go over the play calls with the only 49ers assistant, senior defensive assistant Jason Tarver, who has called plays in the past. Tarver was the Raiders’ defensive coordinator from 2012-14.
“I might say, ‘Hey, J.T., what do you think of these calls? What do you think of this? What do you think of that?’ There is a training aspect to it. I’m not going to stand here and pretend I have every answer right now.”
Still, Saleh does not seem to be sweating his new duties.
There aren’t a lot of wrinkles or exotic components to the 49ers defense. That’s by design. The system is meant to be simple so that the players can be as fast, as aggressive and as instinctive as possible.
As a result, the play calls also are straight-forward and Saleh said he should know well ahead of time how he is going to call a game.
“When it comes to game-plan situations, for our system and our scheme, we feel very comfortable in the way we game plan in having a very, very good idea of exactly what we’re going to call before the situation comes up,” he said. “Because we don’t do a lot, the calls are very specific, so you can get very, very detailed in how you call a game before the game ever approaches.”
Of course, adjustments will have to be made during a game and there is a feel to the play-calling. But Saleh said the scheme, which he has been a part of since the 2011 season in Seattle, should provide many of the answers.
Calling the plays from the sideline in practice also should serve as a good warm-up. Saleh said he plans to be on the sideline, not up in the coach’s booth, on game days. The team’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, also is the head coach and will be on the sideline as well.
“I’ll get wound up up there,” Saleh said with a laugh. “No, I’m not a big yeller, but I want to be down there with the guys.”
Tarver, assistant defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks and defensive quality control coaches Tem Lukabu and Bobby Slowik will serve as Saleh’s eyes in the coach’s booth.
Et cetera – First-round draft pick Solomon Thomas, who has been unable to take part in spring practices because Stanford’s school year is still in session, can spend Thursday, the final day of the 49ers’ three-day minicamp, with the team. The 49ers are not scheduled to practice that day.
▪ The 49ers signed third-round draft pick C.J. Beathard to a four-year deal. That leaves Thomas as the only member of their 10-man draft class who remains unsigned.
▪ The 49ers coaching fellows for the ongoing minicamp and upcoming training camp include Katie Sowers, who interned with the Atlanta Falcons last year. She’s the first woman to coach with the 49ers. The other fellows are Alonzo Carter, Nick Ferguson, Corey Ivy, Jerrod Johnson, Rony Sieperda, Donald White and Rodrique Wright.