After last year’s tenacious D led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, what can they do for an encore?
With all 11 starters returning, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio believes his unit will be better in 2012 than it was in 2011, noting that he and the coaching staff now have a full offseason to work with the players, and that last year they only had a little more than a month to get accustomed to each other after the lockout.
“Last year they grew into playing well with each other, and communicated with each other in an advanced way as the season progressed,” Fangio told the San Jose Mercury News. “We would expect that to continue and take it to an even higher level.”
The 49ers ranked first in the league in rushing defense last season, tied for the league lead in takeaways and were second in the league in points allowed, but Fangio said that when he looks at the roster, he doesn’t see a bunch of players who were at their peak last season. Instead, he sees 11 starters who are capable of improving with another year of seasoning.
“I don’t think we have anybody on our defense that should be descending at this point of their career, who are old enough that they shouldn’t play as well as they did last year or even better,” Fangio said.
There is always the concern with a team that has the same core group of players coming back that complacency will set in. But the 49ers’ coaching staff doesn’t seem likely to let that happen. Fangio has every reason to be optimistic.