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Packers-49ers Q&A: Robert Saleh leads defensive revival in San Francisco

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Kyle Posey of SB Nation’s San Francisco 49ers blog Niners Nation answers our questions about the team.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers battle for the No. 1 spot in the NFC with the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Posey of Niners Nation kindly volunteered to answer our questions about the 49ers and provide some insight into their strengths and weaknesses.

APC: During the first two years of Robert Saleh’s time as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, the team ranked in the bottom 10 in defense by DVOA (26th in 2017, 23rd in 2018). This year, the unit ranks second in the league and Saleh has become a coveted head-coaching candidate. What personnel changes led to this improvement and what has Saleh done better in 2019 than in past years?

The personnel moves that have improved San Francisco are both on and off the field. Adding Dee Ford and Nick Bosa has transformed this defense. Adding speed to the second level has as well. Replacing Eliah Lee with Kwon Alexander proved to be one of the biggest upgrades for this team. Now that Lee is gone, rookie Dre Greenlaw has filled in admirably in two starts. In the secondary, having healthy safeties has been critical. There aren’t the blown coverages that were happening with younger players, and that’s limited big plays. The 49ers also went from 26th to first in the red zone touchdown percentage.

The coaching staff changed as well. Joe Woods has helped changed the coverage on the backend. We’re not seeing vanilla coverages. Upfront, Kris Kocurek has brought the best out of everyone, specifically Arik Armstead, who is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Factor in all these changes, and that’s why this is one of the best units in the NFL.

We’d like to thank Kyle. Be sure to check out the rest of our Q&A session with Niners Nation over the course of the week as well as our Q&A session over there. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers versus 49ers.