Saleh pre­pares to face for­mer Sea­hawks team

Manteca Bulletin - - Sports -

SANTA CLARA (AP) — Robert Saleh had been in the NFL for six sea­sons with Hous­ton by the time he ar­rived as an as­sis­tant coach in Seat­tle in 2011. He im­me­di­ately re­al­ized what the Sea­hawks were build­ing with play­ers like Earl Thomas, Richard Sher­man and Kam Chan­cel­lor.

“We had de­cent de­fenses, but you rec­og­nize, it was like right when we got there. Like, ‘Man these guys are a lot dif­fer­ent than what we had in Hous­ton,’ at that time,” Saleh said Thurs­day. “To see those guys just taste a lit­tle bit of suc­cess and to see Earl, Richard, Kam. Bobby Wag­ner was a rookie, KJ Wright. Then once Michael Ben­nett and Cliff Avril came in it was like they just took that thing com­pletely over.”

The Sea­hawks went to the play­offs in Saleh’s sec­ond sea­son as a de­fen­sive qual­ity con­trol as­sis­tant and won the Su­per Bowl the fol­low­ing year. He par­layed that suc­cess into a bet­ter job in Jack­sonville. Saleh fol­lowed for­mer Sea­hawks co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley and spent the past three sea­sons as Bradley’s lineback­ers coach on the Jaguars.

Saleh is now build­ing his own de­fense as co­or­di­na­tor in San Fran­cisco, and has the op­por­tu­nity to take the lessons he learned with the Sea­hawks to boost one of their ri­vals in the NFC West.

Saleh said he ab­sorbed all sorts of knowl­edge, from scheme and phi­los­o­phy to how learn­ing to pre­pare, from Bradley, and get­ting a play­ers’ per­spec­tive from fel­low as­sis­tant and for­mer NFL line­backer Ken Nor­ton Jr.

He also saw how head coach Pete Car­roll al­ways stayed true to him­self and is try­ing to do the same in his own ca­reer.

“The big­gest in­flu­ence I took from coach Car­roll is from a phi­los­o­phy stand­point,” Saleh said. “Un­der­stand­ing who you are as a per­son. Un­der­stand­ing what’s im­por­tant to you as a per­son. And, how to ap­ply it to the mes­sage that you’re try­ing to de­liver. Un­der­stand­ing that ev­ery­body has a style and that ev­ery style is the right style pro­vided you ap­ply it in the right way. So, just from a phi­los­o­phy stand­point, speak­ing to peo­ple, han­dling peo­ple is where I have my great­est

growth from coach Car­roll.”

Car­roll said Saleh has added his own wrin­kles to the de­fense and ex­pects him to have great suc­cess in his first job as an NFL co­or­di­na­tor, even though the Nin­ers may lack the tal­ent de­fen­sively that was in Seat­tle when Saleh ar­rived six years ago.

“I’m not sur­prised at all that he has ar­rived here as a co­or­di­na­tor in the league,” Car­roll said. “Great worker, bril­liant guy, good com­mu­ni­ca­tor. He gets it. Great de­meanor about him and a lot of en­ergy. I’m not sur­prised at all.”

Hav­ing coached against the Seat­tle style of de­fense over the years and hav­ing served as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for an­other for­mer Sea­hawks de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Dan Quinn, first-year 49ers coach Kyle Shana­han wanted to find a dis­ci­ple of that de­fense to run his unit in San Fran­cisco.

The 49ers tried to hire Bradley, but he went to the Charg­ers in­stead. So Shana­han hired Saleh and tasked him with try­ing to build a de­fense like the one in Seat­tle that has tor­mented San Fran­cisco teams so of­ten in re­cent years.

“They make you work for ev­ery­thing and it’s some­thing that you don’t have to rein- vent the wheel ev­ery week,” Shana­han said. “It’s some­thing that if you just do over and over and over again, it’s hard not to get bet­ter at it.”

The Nin­ers showed mod­er­ate progress in their first game un­der Saleh despite los­ing 23-3 to Carolina. The run de­fense was vastly im­proved over a year ago and four of the five scores al­lowed came on short fields af­ter turnovers or fourth-down stops.

But they also failed to get much pres­sure on Cam New­ton, gen­er­at­ing no sacks and only nine QB pres­sures, ac­cord­ing to Spor­tRadar. San Fran­cisco knows that must change against Rus­sell Wil­son and Seat­tle’s patch­work of­fen­sive line.

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