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Niners DC Robert Saleh touting new, fierce defense

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A personal prediction for the 2017 season: A lot of fans will end the season knowing the name Robert Saleh than they did at the beginning.

The San Francisco 49ers might not be a playoff team this year, but Saleh, the team's defensive coordinator, will employ a much more enjoyable brand of football to complement Kyle Shanahan on the offensive side. He summed up his philosophy in an interview with NBC Bay Area.

"We always talk about reppin' our style, and if we can rep our style on every play as a fan or someone watching from the outside, you'd be able to recognize our defense," he said.

The addition of Reuben Foster and Solomon Thomas to a defense that already had Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner could be enough to push a lot of defenses over the edge, but it will take a truly creative mind to make the collective unit into something that invokes fear. At least for one night, during last weekend's primetime matchup against the Vikings, it seemed like that was possible. The 49ers are loaded with hitters, bound together by the consummate professional NaVorro Bowman. Even safety Eric Reid, the team's 2013 first-round pick, looked rejuvenated when drilling a receiver over the middle.

This is the one blessing of a team's prolonged struggle. Like the Browns, the 49ers are emerging from a momentary slump with at least the potential to create something disenchanted fans can attach themselves to.

If a 49ers fan finishes the season thinking they're set up to be a top 5 unit in 2018, that's a far different -- and better -- place than they were in a year ago at this time. Saleh sounds like a coach ready to make that happen.

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