Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio spoke in the 49ers’ media tent this afternoon. He discussed Aldon Smith’s injury, backup QB Scott Tolzien and the overall performance of the defense in Friday night’s preseason opener. He’s a transcript, courtesy of the 49ers.
What’s the takeaway, for you, from seeing your first team defense play a couple of series Friday night?
“Well, we didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing in those first two series. We let Minnesota get two field goals and I think they drove it for 130 some yards in both series. We gave up a big play in the first drive which set up the first field goal. Then we didn’t play well as unit on the second drive. We had an offside penalty. We didn’t play a route correctly. We were not sharp at all.”
What would you attribute that to because you have been so sharp in the practices?
“I don’t know. Kind of felt it might happen that way, but we definitely did not play the way we are capable of playing.”
What happened on that second play of the game?
“We didn’t play the coverage correctly. We needed to have another person deep there and we weren’t there. It was a busted coverage.”
Saying it might happen that way, why did you think it might?
“I don’t know. You just kind of sense it sometimes. I don’t have an ironclad, quantitative reason to tell you, it’s just a sense.”
How concerned are you about the LB Aldon Smith injury? In that, you wanted him out there getting as much playing time as possible.
“I’m concerned from the standpoint that he didn’t get about 15 more plays that he would have got the other night at outside linebacker. Concerned that he’s missing a good bit of this week’s work, but long term I’m not concerned. But it is a setback in the short term.”
If he doesn’t get out there again for the exhibition season, do you feel at all reluctant to place him out there as an every down guy, dropping and doing all the things he’s asked to do on September 9th?
“That’s a possibility, but I’m not anticipating that being the case. We’ll see how it unfolds as we move forward.”
How did LB Kourtnei Brown come in and look in the second half?
“He did okay. We didn’t have a lot of plays on defense in the second half, which is good most of the time, but you’d like to have more for a preseason game. We didn’t get a long look at a lot of the guys that we were hoping to get a long look at. We only had, I think, 51 plays on defense the other night. Some guys that were ticketed to get 15 plays didn’t get any or got one or two. So, we didn’t get a great look at a lot of those guys and hopefully we’ll get that this week.”
Is Kourtnei one of those guys that’s kind of a mystery player, you don’t really know what he’ll do in a game situation?
“Well he got to play about, I’d say, 20 plays the other night. He’s still learning. He was a guy that comes from Clemson, was never a linebacker before. He’s learning a new position. He’s showing progress but at the same time struggling like most guys put in that situation do. But, I do see some potential.”
What about LB Eric Bakhtiari? He was around the ball quite a bit during the game.
“Yeah, he played well in his play out there the other night. For a guy that’s only got one year in the league or whatever it is, credited, he’s got a lot of experience because he’s been in a bunch of camps. He’s a smart player. He’s experienced and it showed in that game there. He took advantage of his opportunities.”
I think it was S Donte Whitner who called QB Scott Tolzien ‘Baby Brees’, or ‘Baby Drew Brees.’ Is defending him, watching him from your side of the ball, what do you think of that characterization?
“I think Donte’s trying to say that’s the type of player he’s like. I don’t think in any way is he saying he’s Drew Brees or as good as Drew Brees at this moment in time. He plays that type of style of play and I was very impressed, personally, with what Scott did in the game the other night. But I wasn’t surprised by it because he does that out here on the practice field all the time. Scott did well by himself in the game, but again, he carried over from the practice field to the game.”
Is he one of the tougher quarterbacks out here to fool?
“He does a good job in reading a defense. I think he’s got a good command of football, not just offensively but defensively, and he’s got that little extra intelligence that you want in a quarterback.”
CB Perrish Cox played pretty well in the game. Is that kind of the way his summer’s been going? Where’s he fitting in now in the coverage packages?
“He did well in the game the other night with his opportunities. Again, we wish we would have gotten a few more snaps for him. Again, he’s the same as he’s been every day you ask that question. He’s doing well at nickel, he’s doing well at corner. He’s going to factor into our plans somehow some way.”
Anybody surprise you? Any of the younger players, the backup players, anybody surprise you with how well they did?
“I wouldn’t say there was a huge surprise to the good nor to the negative. I think they all played about how we thought they might play. I think this week will give us a little better, truer look because now they’ve got their feet wet in a game. Get another week of practice, see themselves on film in a game and going to play a good Houston offense, which is a good scheme. I think we’ll get a better reading this week.”
Guys like Perrish Cox and CB Tramaine Brock, it looks like that those first three guys are pretty static. Is that the way you would too…
“Not necessarily, no. Not necessarily. Brock and Cox are having good camps. You see a little bit more of Cox than you do of Brock because he’s playing nickel and the nickel gets involved in some more action. He’s in the middle of things. Brock’s had a good camp also. Right now, I just feel good that we’ve got five corners there that we can feel confident about playing in a game. Wish we had that depth at all of our positions but that’s probably a little unrealistic.”
After speaking of the depth at all positions, what about S Trenton Robinson? He got a lot of snaps.
“He did, he might have had 25 snaps or so and I thought he did fine in his game. He’s shown a slow, steady progress. At times there’s no progress in a day, but then he’ll go up or he’ll go up a little each day. I have been pleased with his progress so far. I think it’s been slow and steady and usually with a guy like that, that’s slow and steady, once they truly figure it out you might get a big spike one of these weeks. We have been pleased with his progress, but looking for him to make that spike to where if he has to play we feel comfortable with him in there.”
And how do you measure that? What completes it?
“Just with your eyes. It’s just him being confident, being quick with his decisions, quick with his calls. The safeties are the quarterback of the pass defense and get involved in a lot of calls with the linebackers. The quicker they spit them out, the quicker they anticipate them, the better the whole operation is and those young safeties are usually slow with that. And that’s kind of how you can tell they’re getting it. They’re much quicker making their adjustments.”
Will you probably rest DT Justin Smith again this game?
“We haven’t decided that at all yet.”
You talk about having that gut feeling going in, was your gut telling you there might be some over confidence with the first-string defense just with how well they have been playing in camp?
“Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of all the nice things that have been said about them for their play last year. They started off camp very well, pretty much dominating out here on the practice field and I just think we got a little full of ourselves.”
Having said that, was that nice, not nice to see it, but beneficial to have a game like this that refocuses their attention?
“Sometimes as a coach, because we even said it prior to the game it might happen, and then you say that’d be good for us, but while it’s happening and even afterwards, I don’t agree with that, no. I didn’t like looking at it.”
Did you get a good workout running from press box to field Friday night?
“No, actually for the first time ever, at halftime we didn’t go down because the elevator was broke. It’s only a 12 minute halftime as it is and Candlestick is the hardest stadium in the league to get down and get back up in, in 12 minutes. Usually in a regular game, that gets you about three minutes in the locker room before you have to start running back up and that’s when you have an elevator down to the, whatever level that is. So we didn’t even come down this game. So I guess we need that new stadium.”
Can you stay up there during the game, like at halftime; can you communicate with the locker room? Can you Skype or something?
“No, that’d be illegal. You cannot use anything outside of the headsets. You can’t even have a phone in the booth or a computer. I don’t know what the rules are if you said ‘hey we don’t want to go down during halftime’ if you can do it that way.”
What is the contingency plan if this were to happen in the regular season?
“The contingency plan is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
How did you spend your time?
“I had a hot dog. I’ve had better.”
You’ve been to a lot of stadiums over the years. I can remember where the Raiders used to play and you’d have to walk through the crowd to get to the field. What are some memories along those lines that standout to you?
Yeah there’s got to be some crazy ones.
“RFK used to be a real tough stadium to get up and down in. You had to walk through, basically, people the whole way up and the box was all the way up on top. I don’t think there were any, there might have been one escalator you got on, escalator not elevator, but you had to walk through the people the whole way. One place where I was at, we had an older coach with us and I thought we were going to lose him on that one. Philadelphia could be tough at times. You used to have to walk through the crowd about like you do at Candlestick, half the way.”
Candlestick though, its Niner fans. You got your Niners stuff, no big deal. What’s it like going down in Philly, in enemy territory?
“If you are beating them they are kind of quiet. They don’t say much, but if you’re losing you’ll hear it from them. I don’t know how it is here. We had a good season last year so they were very kind even through the tough times, but I’m not naive enough to think that that may not change if things go down.”