San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini has been with the team since 2013 where he was originally an assistant. But today he is a defensive coordinator for the first time since 2005.
He enters the 2015 season more wise and credits his experience as a head coach with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. Mangini has a different view of things today as a result.
“Well, I had a bunch of years as a head coach, so that helped me look at it from a global perspective,” Mangini said. “I had two years recently on offense that gave me insight from a game planning perspective and from a scheme perspective, and it’s hard to do when you’re in one role. I’ve actually been very fortunate to be able to play those other roles, to be in those other roles, to hear the conversations, to hear the thought process, to look at it through a different set of eyes so that when I came back in this role, I’ve got a fresh set of eyes and perspective going into this that my first time at it I didn’t have. So, that’s been huge for me.”
In 2013, he worked with the offense as an adviser and giving a defensive perspective on plays. Last year he was the team’s tight ends coach and prior to being with the 49ers, he only had one season as an offensive coach in 1996 with the Baltimore Ravens.
Mangini inherits a defense that lost several linebackers to retirement and release. Patrick Willis and Chris Borland both retired while the 49ers released Aldon Smith last week. Smith was arrested by the Santa Clara Police Department for a hit-and-run, DUI and vandalism.
Smith is viewed as irreplaceable, but the 49ers had no choice after previous incidents off the field. Mangini has looked to the depth of the 49ers LB position hoping to build balance. He pointed as several young players who have an opportunity.
“One of the things that we focused on defensively is building flexibility, in terms of what we can play and then building flexibility with who’s going to play there,” Mangini said. “[LB] Corey’s [Lemonier] gotten a lot of reps, [LB] Aaron Lynch, he’s starting to get back out there but he did some really good things last year. You’ve got a guy like [LB] Eli [Harold], who’s shown some real promise here early and we’ve been moving those parts around to play left and right so we wouldn’t have to play guys in the same spot the whole time. I think the defense has some flexibility built into it as well. You can’t easily replace someone of that caliber, but we’ll find ways collectively to get that done and there’s great opportunities. There’s great opportunities for guys who made have had more limited roles had he been here.”
Ahmad Brooks is the only starting LB returning from the 2013 season as well as the Super Bowl XLVII team. He was thought to be a cap casualty last spring, but he ended up staying as a result of others leaving.
Mangini likes his versatility and has played him with the inside linebackers on occasion. He says there is athleticism he has which goes well with his coverage skills.
The largest concern for both coaches and fans alike is the injuries that could happen in training camp. Mangini said he was nervous for some players when the pads are off and contact becomes heavy. He views this as one of the biggest obstacles in camp but believes the team will be fine.
“I’ve been involved in [practice] pretty much every year of my career and you always go through those plays as much as you love because of what you get out of them, you also hold your breath a little bit,” Mangini said. “You want to make sure everybody gets through.”