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What to Expect From 49ers New Defensive Coordinator Nick Sorensen

49ers new defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen has never called plays before, so it is tough to envision how he will perform.

It took 17 days for the San Francisco 49ers to find their new defensive coordinator.

Given how long it took for them, it could've meant that they were going with another external hire at the position. Well, it turns out their new defensive coordinator was in the building all along. The 49ers promoted defensive passing game coordinator Nick Sorensen to be the defensive play caller.

Hiring internally was always the best course of action for the 49ers. Sorensen has been with the team since 2022 and spent a lot of time closely working with the linebackers. He should be well equipped on being able to connect the pass rush to the coverage, which is what Kyle Shanahan viewed as inconsistent from the defense.

However, Sorensen has never called plays before, so it is tough to envision how he will perform. But I believe there are some clues and indications on what to expect from Sorensen in his first year as the 49ers defensive coordinator. For starters, there is always that chance that he struggles for a stretch of the season. In fact, I think that expectation should already be put out there.

With Steve Wilks, it never felt like he was allowed to have that stretch of bad performances. He needed to have the 49ers defense be at a high-level each and every game. Sorensen, at least, has the leeway of being a first time play caller and is not an external hire. The players won't begin to turn him like they did with Wilks, so they will easily have his back and I believe Shanahan will as well.

As far as scheme and plays, I see the 49ers defense looking more like they did under Robert Saleh than they did with DeMeco Ryans. That means a more heavy emphasis on zone coverage and letting your front four get to the quarterback. The reason Sorensen is likely to be more Saleh than Ryans is because Sorensen, like Saleh, spent time with the Seattle Seahawks.

The difference is that Sorensen was with Seattle from 2013 to 2020 whereas Saleh was there from 2011 to 2013. So, Sorensen is likely to stay more true to that cover 3/zone heavy coverage that those great Seahawks defenses utilized. However, I wouldn't rule out any changes or wrinkles on his own either.

I think what Sorensen will do is utilize the way Saleh ran the 49ers defense, while implementing the blitzes and defensive line stunts/twists that were so effective under Ryans. What made Wilks such a failure wasn't the fact that he would call a lot of cover 0 blitzes, but it was because they were so vanilla and straightforward. There were never ever curveballs to the blitzes as they were under Ryans.

Hopefully Sorensen working under Ryans for a year recognizes how successful that was and incorporates that again into his defensive schemes. I'm sure Shanahan will have no qualms about Sorensen doing so.