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49ers Film Room: The Wide-9 in San Francisco’s 2019 defense

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49ers Nick Bosa wide 9 technique 2019 defense
© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

In our latest series of 49ers Film Room, we break down the “Wide Nine” technique and its effect on the San Francisco 49ers’ 2019 defense, including how Nick Bosa and Dee Ford fit into the Niners’ new scheme.

We begin our 49ers Film Room series on the wide-9 technique by reviewing the basics of the defensive alignment, and identifying when 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has utilized the “Wide Nine” on early downs during his first two seasons in San Francisco.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: After another disappointing season on the defensive side of the ball, the San Francisco 49ers are making significant changes to their defensive scheme this offseason. Many of these changes stem from new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek‘s preferred use of the “Wide Nine” which has quickly become the hottest — and perhaps least understood — football buzzword for football fans in the Bay Area.

The Wide-9 Technique

If you don’t know what a “Wide Nine” defense is, you’re not alone. As opposed to a specific type of defense, “Wide Nine” simply refers to the wide-9 technique, or the far-outside alignment, of one or both of a team’s edge rushers.

When a defensive end or outside linebacker lines up in a standard 9-technique, he lines up across from the tight end’s outside shoulder. In the “Wide Nine,” the edge defender lines up wider than a normal 9-tech, outside of the tight end’s direct field of vision, and at an angle facing the quarterback. If there’s no tight end on the line of scrimmage, the EDGE lines up in a similar fashion with respect to the offensive tackle. This is also referred to as a “Ghost Nine” technique, and is utilized by many NFL defenses — including the 49ers — on obvious passing downs. However, during his time as the defensive line coach in Detroit and Miami, Kocurek used the technique in a wide variety of situations:

San Francisco 49ers wide 9 2019 defense

49ers and the Wide-9 on Early Downs

Throughout his two seasons as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator, Saleh’s has frequently used “Ghost Nine” defensive ends to attack the quarterback on passing downs. Saleh also utilizes “Ghost Nine” or “Wide Nine” edge rushers in many of his five-man fronts, but it is extremely uncommon for the 49ers to use wide-9 defensive ends in four-man fronts on early downs — but that is about to change in 2019. One of these rare situations is when an opposing offense lines up with 12 personnel in an Ace formation:

49ers Wide 9 2019 defense

With two tight ends on the field, the Detroit Lions’ offense has eight holes along the offensive line for running back Kerryon Johnson to potentially attack, so the 49ers have eight gaps to fill. Defensive end Solomon Thomas lines up in a 6-technique to control the C-gap and to slow a potential release from now-49ers tight end Levine Toilolo, as strong safety Jaquiski Tartt drops down to handle the D-gap. On the opposite side, 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead lines up in a wide-9 across from Lions tight end Michael Roberts. This allows SAM linebacker Mark Nzeocha to slide inside into an improved position to fill the C-gap or pursue a run from the backside, while maintaining the ability to cover the slower Roberts if the Lions pass the football:

49ers Wide 9 2019 defense

The Lions motion wide receiver Marvin Jones toward the formation as the ball is snapped on this inside zone run, but by the time the wideout can make contact with Tartt, Toilolo, who receives no assistance from right tackle Taylor Decker, is tossed to the side by Thomas. Thomas knifes in to make the play in the backfield but can’t bring down Johnson, who is quickly cleaned up by Nzeocha and fellow linebacker Fred Warner:

The 49ers have demonstrated the ability to stop the run while utilizing wide-9 defensive ends, as long as San Francisco has the proper numbers in the box. This should be no surprise, since the “Wide Nine” is far from a new defensive alignment. In fact, the wide-9 technique — originally called the 8-technique, like in the diagram below — can be found in old playbooks of the Miami Hurricanes, where the Miami 4-3 over defense was first developed:

49ers Wide 9 2019 defense

The wide-9 technique certainly has its drawbacks, particularly in the running game. But before we address the negatives, we’ll discuss the advantages this wide alignment affords defenses in the passing game — particularly with the 49ers’ recent additions of edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford — as well as the bevy of changes Saleh will be forced to make to his defensive scheme as a result of Kocurek’s hiring. Check back tomorrow as we break down how an interior lineman — defensive tackle DeForest Buckner — could be the biggest beneficiary of the San Francisco 49ers’ new defensive alignment.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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San Francisco 49ers

PODCAST: Seahawks Snap 49ers Unbeaten Streak in Overtime Thriller

Brian Peacock

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  • 49ers fall to the Seahawks 27-24 on Monday Night Football
  • Russell Wilson gets three chances to win it in overtime for Seattle
  • Rookie emergency kicker nails three field goals, but misses game-winner for SF
  • Niners defense strong again, but offense stumbles
  • Game notes and game balls

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San Francisco 49ers

49ers Film Room: Breaking down QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s Top 5 Passes

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49ers Film Room: Garoppolo top passes
© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

After reviewing each of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s passes during his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers, we selected Jimmy G’s top 5 plays, and then broke each one down for this edition of 49ers Film Room.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo brought a great deal of excitement — and a number of impressive plays — to the Bay Area since general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan acquired the signal caller from the New England Patriots two years ago.

Jimmy G completed 333 passes over roughly 16 games since he was traded to San Francisco during the 2017 NFL regular season. After a tweet by Locked on 49ers Podcast host Brian Peacock during last week’s game sparked a debate about Garoppolo’s best throw as a Niner, we decided to participate in the enjoyable task of watching — and ranking — each of those 333 completions.

In the end, we concluded the following five plays are Garoppolo’s finest to date, and then we broke each one down [credit goes to Aaron Wilson of Insidethe49.com for the time-consuming video editing work] for today’s edition of 49ers Film Room:

No. 5: Garoppolo and Taylor Improvise for the Score

Like many of Jimmy G’s top plays, this one comes on a key third down in the fourth quarter of the contest. Garoppolo’s improvisational side-armed touchdown throw to wide receiver Trent Taylor extends the 49ers’ lead to two scores over the Jacksonville Jaguars — owners of the NFL’s best defense in 2017.

This play makes our list not because the pass was thrown with pin-point accuracy, but because Garoppolo did everything he could to give Taylor an opportunity to score: he extends the play, properly sets his base, changes his throwing motion to fit the pass between three defenders and puts the ball where only his receiver can make the play:

 

No 4: Garoppolo’s Perfect Touchdown Pass in his 49ers Debut

When Garoppolo was thrust into action against the Seattle Seahawks due to injury in 2017, he wasted no time making his mark despite his limited knowledge of Shanahan’s playbook. After moving the sticks with an 8-yard completion on fourth down, Garoppolo rushes the 49ers to the line with just two seconds remaining on the clock. Again, Jimmy G gets flushed to his left side, but makes sure to quickly set his feet before throwing the pass into the tightest of windows for his first touchdown as a member of the Niners:

 

No 3: Garoppolo Shows Grit on Third Down

Garoppolo is best on the money down — third down — and his willingness to stand tall in the pocket is on clear display during this third down completion to tight end George Kittle. The quarterback feels the heat of the Kansas City Chief’s pass rush, but despite the free blitzer bearing down on him, delivers the perfect pass needed to move the sticks:

 

No 2: The Garoppolo-Sanders Connection Is Real

The play that began this conversation comes in on our list at No. 2. On third down, Garoppolo recognizes man coverage, but is forced to release the pass to WR Emmanuel Sanders before his new wideout makes his break, trusting Sanders to run his route to perfection. Despite stepping on his lineman’s foot, Jimmy G throws a perfect pass to Sanders, who gets his head around in time to find the ball within his grasp:

 

No 1: Garoppolo and Pettis Kick off the 49ers’ 2018 Season

While it’s difficult to top the previous pass, Garoppolo’s first touchdown of the 2018 season comes in at No. 1 on our list. This play has checks all the boxes: Jimmy G correctly reads the defense, spins away from pressure, and then has a fraction of a second to find WR Dante Pettis streaking downfield before lofting a perfect 40-yard pass into his receiver’s hands in the back of the end zone for the score:

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San Francisco 49ers

PODCAST: Shanahan Practice Report, Niners Add Gould Insurance

Brian Peacock

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© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • First injury report for Week 10
  • Kyle Shanahan speaks on who was in/out of practice Thursday, Russell Wilson and Monday Night Football
  • Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey itching to get back on the field
  • George Kittle and RObbie Gould not practicing
  • 49ers sign kicker Chase McLaughlan

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