The 49ers hope a change to their coaching staff can help get more out of their defensive front.
The team on Tuesday announced the hiring of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, 40, who will replace Jeff Zgonina after two seasons.
“Kris has become one of the most respected defensive line coaches in the NFL over the last decade and has a proven track record of helping his players maximize their abilities,” coach Kyle Shanahan wrote in a statement. “When he recently became available, we acted aggressively to add him to our staff because his philosophy, and the style of play he coaches, fits our scheme and personnel very well. We’re excited to get him in the meeting rooms and onto the field with our players.
“I want to thank Jeff for his hard work and dedication to the 49ers over the last two seasons, as his contributions helped to build the foundation of both our defense and team as a whole. He is not only a good football coach, but also a good man, and we wish him the best personally and professionally.”
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Kocurek (pronounced KO-SIR-ick) spent 2018 as the defensive line coach with the Miami Dolphins.
Kocurek reunited with 49ers senior personnel executive Martin Mayhew, who was general manager of the Detroit Lions when Kocurek was the defensive line coach there. Kocurek held that post from 2010-17.
Kocurek will be responsible for helping develop a defensive line that has struggled to consistently bother opposing quarterbacks. The 49ers had 30 sacks in Zgonina’s first season, tied for fifth fewest in the NFL, and 37 this season, tied for seventh fewest.
Among Kocurek’s top jobs will be to develop 2017 third-overall draft pick Solomon Thomas, who had one sack this season.
The 49ers might invest in the defensive front against their No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, where their most pressing need is an edge rusher.
49ers reportedly hire defensive assistant
The 49ers landed Broncos assistant Joe Woods to be their defensive passing game coordinator, according to a report from NFL Media. The team had not confirmed the report when contacted by The Bee.
Passing game coordinator would be a new title on the staff of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Former defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley left the team this month to become a co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
Woods, a former defensive backs coach with Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Oakland, was the Broncos’ coordinator the past two seasons. Denver ranked fourth and 20th against the pass during those two years, allowing 200 and 246 yards per game.
The 49ers were plagued by miscommunication issues in the secondary this season. Developing young cornerbacks such as Ahkello Witherspoon and third-round pick Tarvarius Moore will be an emphasis.
Buckner named to Pro Bowl
The 49ers announced that DeForest Buckner was named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who suffered a foot injury in the divisional playoff loss to the Saints last weekend.
Buckner will join fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle as the 49ers’ representatives in Orlando for the game Jan. 27.
Additionally, the Pro Football Writers Association of America named Kittle and rookie return man Richie James to the All-NFC team. James was the only player in the conference to return a kickoff for a touchdown this season - in the first half of a 26-23 overtime victory over the Seahawks on Dec. 16.