The 49ers' top-ranked defense will have to adjust to change at the coordinator position in 2023, but star pass rusher Nick Bosa is expecting more of the same.
"I don't think there's going to be much of a change," Bosa told Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Wednesday regarding Steve Wilks taking over at defensive coordinator for DeMeco Ryans. "I think from Kyle (Shanahan) down, there's kind of an understanding of how we do things with Kris Kocurek as our [defensive] line coach. There's always ways to improve. But as a D-lineman, I'm happy to say that I'll be doing pretty much very similar things to what I've done the last four years."
After coordinating a defense ranked first in both scoring and yards last season, Ryans mirrored the exit of Bosa's first defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, by coaching the superstar for two years before earning a promotion elsewhere. Ryans' departure to coach the Texans facilitated the addition of Wilks, who far exceeded expectations by going 6-6 as Carolina's 2022 interim head coach and now becomes Bosa's third DC in five years.
Despite the turnover at the top of the defense, Bosa's confidence -- while also stemming from his otherworldly ability to reach the quarterback -- is rooted in Wilks' track record and other vital parts of the Niners' thriving system remaining in place.
Kocurek has been the defensive line coach in San Francisco since 2018, a year before Bosa joined San Francisco as the No. 2 overall pick. Linebackers coach Johnny Holland and defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks have each been on staff a year longer than that. Their continued presence maintains consistency at all levels of a defense that transformed immediately upon Bosa's arrival.
Apart from a 2020 season in which Bosa played just two games due to a torn ACL, the 49ers defense has never ranked worse than third in yards allowed or ninth in points surrendered. Bosa has amassed 43 career sacks, including a league-leading 18.5 in 2022, 105 quarterback hits and seven forced fumbles in those three fully healthy years.
The secondary has excelled behind him, as well. The unit tied for the league lead with 20 interceptions last year, and presents a perfect foundation for Wilks to inherit with his 13 years of NFL experience coaching defensive backs.
The new DC is sure to come in and work with Kocurek to employ Bosa in the same game-wrecking way, which will include allowing Bosa to attack both sides of the offensive line, while defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, the team's big-ticket free-agent addition, should make Bosa even more effective by blowing up opponent's plans through the middle.
"I'm ambidextrous but I do feel a little more comfortable with certain things on each side," Bosa said. "That's just from years and years of playing on a certain side, getting comfortable. I'm lucky because I kind of get to switch as I please, which is nice."
There's sure to be some growing pains along the way. Wilks is an outside hire, while Ryans rose through the ranks from defensive quality control coach under Saleh. Plus, some natural regression would also make sense given a defense hasn't led the league in points and yards allowed in consecutive years since the 2014 Seahawks.
But the pieces are already there for Wilks, Bosa and the rest of the squad to once again make life difficult for all who face them in 2023.