The San Francisco 49ers have placed their trust in Nick Sorensen, the new defensive coordinator, to restore the unit to its former dominance

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Nick Sorenson with Kyle Shanahan

The San Francisco 49ers tried bringing in an outside defensive coordinator, but it didn’t work out. They fired Steve Wilks after just one season.

Now, they’re relying on promoting Nick Sorensen internally to fill that role, with some input from former Chargers head coach Brandon Staley. Their goal is to get the Niners back to playing strong defense after a slight decline last season.

“We all know the standard here and we all want to win, we all want to play great defense and that’s the expectation,” Sorensen said Friday in his first public remarks since being hired earlier this offseason.

“But I have that on myself. Our coaches do, our players do. What is said, I’m not really worried about it. I just know what we want to get done and what I want to get done.”

Under Wilks last season, the 49ers didn’t meet the high defensive standard set by previous coordinators Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans. This was especially evident in the playoffs when they struggled against the run against Green Bay and Detroit, and then faltered late in a Super Bowl loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 49ers excelled in many key areas in 2022 under Ryans. But last season, with Wilks in charge, they ranked third in points allowed and 10th in more detailed efficiency stats like Expected Points Added.

Wilks had trouble adjusting to Coach Kyle Shanahan’s preferred system. The defense struggled against the run all season and fell short in the playoffs, prompting a change.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers players pumped up on the ground

This change led to Sorensen’s promotion. He transitioned from his role as a passing game specialist to overseeing the entire defense for the first time in his coaching career.

Sorensen joined the 49ers in 2022 as a defensive assistant, filling in for linebackers coach Johnny Holland when he was dealing with cancer. During his time in San Francisco, Sorensen also led weekly meetings focused on creating turnovers and limiting mistakes.

Before joining the 49ers, Sorensen was the special teams coach in Jacksonville in 2021. He also spent eight seasons in Seattle as an assistant, focusing on the secondary and special teams, where they used a defensive scheme similar to the 49ers’.


By Christopher Kamila

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