SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of defensive coordinator Eric Mangini’s Friday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“Good morning everybody, how are you doing? We are just pushing forward on our installation, our situational defenses. Got through walk-thru, we’ve got another good day of practice today. I thought yesterday went well, and just moving the plan along.”
How do you kind of account for what you think the Vikings will do on Monday night?
“I’ll tell you, the first game of the season, to me, is always one of the toughest because you’ve had a whole offseason, they’ve had a whole offseason. What you show in the preseason isn’t necessarily what you’re going to do or what you’re going to get and you don’t know what things they like from their OTAs, from training camp, things along those lines. Then you add an element like [Vikings RB] Adrian Peterson, who is a special player. And, what’s the balance going to be? Run? Pass? How are those things going to play out with Adrian back there?”
How hard is it to game plan going against two burners on the outside, you have Vikings WR Charles Johnson and you have Vikings WR Mike Wallace who can basically just clear out, opening the middle for Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph, so how do you, how tough is it to game plan for something like that?
“Yeah, and you’ve got a really special running back. You’ve got a quarterback that can run and do different things that create problems outside of what you normally get. There are a lot of different things that you have to try to get in place because you’re first answer may not be your best answer and you’ve got to work on a couple of counters. So, as the game goes on and you go into the plan thinking it’s going to unfold one way and it doesn’t, having the ability to refer back to, ‘Hey, remember when we did this or this,’ and be able to not only put that in on the sideline, but also execute it.”
Have you decided on who’s going to start at cornerback and where are you in that process?
“Well, we’ll let the week play out. All of those guys are working at it and some of it is how they practice, but it’s also how well they deal with the game plan and understand the game plan. So, we’re evaluating that as we go and then we’ll work it out at the end of the week.”
It seems like those guys have different skills sets. Would it make sense to decided playing time based on matchups?
“Well, there’s a component to that. The other thing that you get is you see a significant amount of 11 personnel. Not just from Minnesota, but from all teams, so that’s when you get in your substituted defenses where multiple guys can play. You can look at it from a matchup perspective and I’ve done that quite a bit over the years, where you put certain guys on certain guys. Sometimes I’d say it’s a really good approach and other times you really want to go left and right, depending on how they are building the formations, how they’re building the passing game, what the threats are, because even though that player has a specific set that you’d like to matchup on, those routes that you’re getting aren’t consistent with where it’d be a big edge.”
WR Torrey Smith said the other day that he was surprised to find out that CB Keith Reaser and CB Kenneth Acker both had missed last year due to injury because they were both so good and so polished when he arrived. Did you have the same reaction that they didn’t really seem like guys who are feeling their way along this offseason that they just kind of jumped into it with two feet?
“Well, I’ve liked that about, not just those guys, but when you look at the rookies, guys like [S] Jaquiski [Tartt] or [DL] Arik [Armstead] or [LB] Eli [Harold]. Those guys have all approached it the same way. You don’t get the sense from any of them that it’s too big for them. You don’t get a sense that they’re in awe of it. If anything, you feel their excitement. You feel their excitement about the opportunity that they have and the challenges that they’re going to have and that’s what you look for. The last thing you want as a coach is to have a guy that you’re comforting through the first game. So, I’ve liked that and young guys have a nice quality about them, because sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know and that’s a good thing.”
How has LB Ahmad Brooks looked after being away for a week?
“He’s looked good. Ahmad has looked really good. And Ahmad is a guy that throughout the spring, throughout camp, really been impressed with his work ethic, his toughness, his consistency, his approach in the classroom. All those things have been outstanding, outstanding.”
You would expect no restrictions on him, he can play?
“No, I don’t expect any restrictions on Ahmad at all and Ahmad’s built in versatility where he can go left, he can go right, he can move around. Ahmad can be anywhere.”
Did you see him take some, you know, new approaches to his fitness, to his eating or did he share any of that with you over what he did during the offseason?
“I should probably talk to him about his fitness and eating, I could use some of those tips. We hadn’t talked much about that. Its, and again, even though I’ve been here the past couple of years, the relationship you build with guys on the other side is a little bit different. I’ve talked to [TE] Vernon [Davis] probably ad nauseum about his eating and fitness. He’s got a good regimen going. But, we haven’t done a lot of that. We talked more in lines of the importance of it and it wasn’t a conversation that had to be revisited because he’s been so proactive with all that stuff.”
Is there any, was there any awkwardness there with Ahmad being gone for that time and then being welcomed back? Because he was kind of in limbo for a while, how did you kind of plan for that in that time?
“Well, it’s going back to what I said initially with the first game, there are so many different plans that you have in place and really our planning has changed pretty dramatically throughout the course of the spring and training camp, where changes have taken place and one system, plan, idea, core group of things that you liked looks totally different. And then, you push the next one forward and something changes and you have a different group then you change again. And, going into this game, now you have to have a ton of different things prepared because you don’t know what you’re going to get, I mean, you have an idea. You try to eliminate as many variables as you can, but you just don’t know.”
One of those big changes was former 49ers and current Oakland Raiders LB Aldon Smith. Obviously, you only had him for this offseason, but today he signed with the raiders up the freeway here a little bit. Any reaction to him getting on with his career?
“Yeah, I’m really happy for him. There’s another guy that I had a great experience with. Loved the way he was working, approaching things. I’m really happy for him and I’m cheering for him to do great things.”
Can you talk about how you see LB NaVorro Bowman approaching this game and whether this has kind of played up to a dream scenario for you, just he’s come in all the way through this healthy and is ready to go Week 1?
“Yeah, that’s exciting. We’ve worked with him and he’s worked with us in terms of how much, the approach. And a lot of that for a guy who goes through a major injury, there is a learning process, there is a building confidence process because the first few times you make a certain movement, you react, you’re not thinking, it’s a measured movements. Things can, sounds can be made that you’re not used or that you worry about and it’s just part of the healing process that comes with it and you just try to get the best plan and everybody is a part of that plan.”
He’s such a key figure, not necessarily on the defense but on the team, do you sense or do you notice other players sort of reacting, when he makes a play does it kind of lift up the rest of his, the guys around him?
“Yeah, the group as a whole is very supportive of each other and another thing that you always look for in this situation is how guys respond to each other and you can see it on tape. A guy makes a play, there are a bunch of guys over there congratulating him. It’s not about, ‘Hey, I need to get mine. I need my plays. I need my sacks. I need my tackles.’ It’s we need to be successful and guys are excited about other teammates success and that, to me, isn’t always an easy thing to get. It isn’t always an easy thing to build. It’s organic. You can try to push that along but as I watched, have watched the guys and seen how they respond to each other, they like each other. They care about each other. They don’t want to let each other down and I respect that and really like that.”
The Vikings offensive line, obviously, has a few moving parts, more so than you would usually, do you try to test them to make sure they are all on the same page?
“Yeah, you’d love to test anything that’s different but we have a lot of moving parts and a lot of different things as well. And, they’ve got a moving part that came in that really is a huge test with Adrian. And then, the things that he can do, whether he has perfect blocking or whether he has no blocking, he can create yards after contact. He can create holes that aren’t there. He can bring the ball all the way backside even though he’s pressed the wall front side. He tests the integrity of your front and there are plenty of examples on tape where things have broken down and he generates something that really a lot of backs can’t generate. And, he’s a guy that gets stronger as the game goes on. It’s not like he shoots his gun early in the game and then slows down. He builds, builds tempo and I’m sure Minnesota’s going through the same process. They’ve got new guys working together, communicating together. In the offensive line, there’s a lot of communication but we all deal with that, you deal with it in secondary. And, they’ve been working with each other for a little while now and I’m sure they pushed that comfort level up.”
In the preseason, we saw Jaquiski working in maybe playing some linebacker in some certain sub-packages. How much of a luxury is that to have a guy who physically can probably fill in the run game but also has the speed maybe to cover some players in the modern NFL?
“Yeah, you’re always looking for that. In substituted defenses, you want to get as much speed as you can out there, but you don’t want to get so little that they just run the ball and you can’t do anything about that. And, [DB] Jimmie Ward’s done a nice job too. He’s a guy that had missed a bunch of time and missed some more time, but has come back and gotten stronger and stronger as we’ve gone on through this preseason, so I’m excited about him as well. Both of those guys, it’s amazing they played high school football together. I don’t know what that record was but that team should be pretty good.”
ME: Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers coaches’ headsets weren’t working properly last night in New England and that sort of thing happens a lot there. You coached there and against them, any comment?
“No. I have nothing to add to that.”