NFL rumors: 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina out after two years

Jennifer Lee Chan
NBC Sports BayArea
As the 49ers continued to struggle to pressure the quarterback outside of DeForest Buckner, the team reportedly has made a coaching change.

NFL rumors: 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina out after two years

As the 49ers continued to struggle to pressure the quarterback outside of DeForest Buckner, the team reportedly has made a coaching change.

NFL rumors: 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina out after two years originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

After struggling to develop a pass rush with three first-round picks on their front, the 49ers and defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina reportedly will part ways.

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The 49ers did not provide comment when contacted by NBC Sports Bay Area. Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio was first to report Zgonina's firing.

Zgonina was with the 49ers as their defensive line coach in 2017 and 2018. In his six-year coaching career, he also worked with the Houston Texans and the New York Giants as an assistant defensive line coach. He played in the NFL for 17 seasons. 

The 49ers brought in pass rush specialist Chris Kiffin to work alongside Zgonina in 2018 in an attempt to bolster the group's ability to get to opposing quarterbacks. There has been no word if Kiffin will be retained. 

While DeForest Buckner had a breakout season with 12 sacks, the team still struggled in many categories, including a record-breaking low in producing turnovers. The 49ers improved their run defense from being last in the league in 2016, but they still could not get consistent pressure in the passing game. 

The 49ers' remaining first-round picks on the defensive line, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, have been productive, but the staff has struggled to find the best positions for them to succeed.

Defensive lineman Ronald Blair is one of the players who has been improving, and he credited Kiffin for better communication as well as bringing new approaches to the defensive line room. 

"We have to credit him a lot to how good our communication got toward the end of the season," Blair said. "He brought in some really good stuff. He made you see the pass rush from a different perspective and helped develop the communication." 

Kiffin could be a candidate to be the defensive line coach, but the team likely will weigh all of its options heading into 2019. 

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