SANTA CLARA — Vic Fangio spoke in the 49ers media tent Thursday afternoon. Here is what he said, courtesy of the 49ers.
What kind of problems do the Dolphins present?
“Well, they’ve got a talented young quarterback who’s a good athlete, runs well. He’s a scrambler, got a strong arm. I think he’s gaining more and more confidence with every game that he’s played. I think they’re a much better team now than they were earlier in the season. They’re doing a good job of running the ball. [RB Reggie] Bush is having a good season. They’ve got two good tight ends, [WR Davone] Bess and [WR Brian] Hartline are good receivers. Pretty good team right now.”
The criticism on Bush coming into the league a few years ago is that, they were saying, the wide open spaces that he had college. Has he learned how to play in smaller spaces?
“I think so. I think he’s improved in that area. He’s still a guy that’s always dangerous to bounce it outside and look to come out of the middle and get out on your edges if it looks a little cloudy. But I think he’s done a better job of plowing things up in there, overall, than he was early in his career. But he’s still a threat to get outside your defense and have one of those runs where he reverses field and looks like sandlot ball there. You’ve got to be ready.”
LB Aldon Smith has said that he would like to be recognized, coming into the season, for what he’s done, but also that’s he’s not just trying to just get sacks. Do you like his approach coming in, in terms of, let’s not talk about the single season mark until the appropriate time?
“I think that’s the right approach in all of the things in the NFL. Every week’s a new week. You take one game at a time. You take one play at a time, one series at a time. Play your best. Be focused on your job. Know your techniques and assignments and then let the results show what they do. I think if you get wrapped up into something that’s on the periphery, that sometimes you don’t have control over, it could be a distraction. I think he’s handled it pretty good so far.”
What is the ballpark estimate how many different ways you line Aldon up this season compared to last season, just in passing situation? How many different ways do you line him up this year?
“Well not a whole lot more than what we did last year other than he’s playing in the base and he’s our right outside linebacker. We do move him around in the sub-package some. He’s generally going to be on the right side, but he is on the left side a fair amount, anywhere between five and 15 times a game in our sub stuff and occasionally, on rare occasions, we will put him inside. But we’ve been moving him around, but not a lot.”
How difficult will that be for Dolphins T Jonathan Martin dealing with both Aldon Smith and DT Justin Smith? He has so little experience in the NFL at the left tackle spot.
“Well, every week in the NFL is a tough assignment no matter who you’re going against. Every team’s got good players. Jonathan’s a good player. They thought high enough of him to draft him very high and he’s been a starter from day one. And he’s done a nice job for them this year. So, I’m sure he’s looking at it like he does every week in the NFL. He’s got tough players to go against.”
More so, just making the switch from right to left, how difficult is that for a guy?
“He played left his whole time at Stanford, I believe. I was only there the one year, but I believe he played left. So, he’ll be much more prepared for it this week than he was last week because he’ll have a full week of practice under his belt at left, where I’m sure prior to that, he just got a handful of snaps, getting ready when he was the right tackle.”
Do you have a sense of who they’re going to put in at right tackle?
“I think they’ll play the game the way they finished it last week. 75 [G Nate Garner] moves over to right tackle and 71 [Martin] becomes the left tackle.”
People describe Aldon and Justin as guys who sniff out the quarterback. They have a knack for that. How does that come about and how would you describe what those guys have?
“Well, I think there’s, some of it’s instincts. Some guys just have a good feel. Some guys can get close but not finish. Those guys can get close and finish. It takes a special skill set. You’ve got to have something special, one way or another, either one thing or two things. In Aldon’s case, he’s got length. He’s got slipperiness. He’s got some strength. In Justin’s case, he’s got strength. He’s got great awareness of where the quarterback is going to be. He’s got great awareness of how a guy’s pass blocking him. So, it’s a little bit of everything all wrapped up in one.”
One of the themes that has been going on throughout the season is the continuity of the defense. You’ve had basically the same starting secondary over the last year-and-a-half. How has that helped shape the defense? Is that in jeopardy this week with CB Tarell Brown injury?
“Well, it could be in jeopardy with his injury, but, we’ll just have to deal with that if that’s the case. [CB Chris] Culliver will come in there. [CB] Perrish Cox can come in there. [CB Tramaine] Brock can come in there. We’ll be fine without him. But back to your original point, yeah, it does help to have continuity. We’ve talked about that before, if for no other reason they’ve all played in the same system, for now, 30 games and practiced for 30 games, two training camps in the same system playing alongside each other, things become a little bit better. Again, it’s the communication, both the spoken word and the unspoken word, because sometimes you can’t always speak out there.”
How much have those guys, and what the secondary’s been able to do, has helped a guy like Aldon do what he’s done statistically?
“Well, they go hand-in-hand. You can’t play good pass defense without a good pass rush and you can’t get a lot of production in pass rush if guys are coming open very early. So, it goes hand-in-hand.”
Is that kind of the hallmark of the secondary, that guy’s haven’t been able to come open early?
“Well, we’ve been tight. We try to get tight on our people. We have good understanding of our zones and our mans and how they play and we try not to let anybody be running free. Very seldom do you see us, when you’ve watched us since we’ve been here, seeing guys like, ‘Well what happened there?’ They beat us, they complete ball. But we’ve got somebody there.”
How much better are Tarell and Culliver from a year ago?
“They’re better. In Chris’s case, just becoming a second year player, last year being a rookie, he’s made great strides. He’s learned the game better, learned the system better. And, I think in T-Brown’s case, it’s a combination. He was in the league for a few years before we got here, didn’t play much. Now he’s gotten an opportunity to play 30 straight games, get all that practice time in there and he’s been able to develop his skills, get some confidence and play within our scheme.”
S Dashon Goldson put the hit on QB Sam Bradford and got flagged for it, obviously a key moment. It was close. What were your thoughts on that and what do you tell a guy like that?
“If the quarterback starts to slide, you’ve got to get off of him. You can’t go down on him.”
What have you seen from Dolphins WR Brian Hartline and why do think he’s been under the radar?
“Yeah, I don’t know why he’s under the radar. He’s been impressive watching tape on him this week. He’s their leading receiver. Obviously the quarterback has a comfort level with him too. He likes to throw to him. He’s deceivingly fast and quick and he’s got good hands, and a good route runner. This guy’s a good player.”
How do you reconcile Dashon’s aggressiveness? It seems like a lot of his productivity is based on that. He’s also had a number of big penalties this year? As a coach, do you kind of pull the reins back on that?
“No, you don’t pull the reins back. You explain to him why the penalty was called and why he can’t do what he did in each and every situation. And I think he’s smart enough and intelligent enough and’s got good football awareness that he knows the difference and he just has to always remind himself.”
Not to get into an offensive or defensive division, but obviously you guys didn’t allow a touchdown last week and you lose. Is there frustration in that situation among your guys?
“Well, I think the frustration is throughout the whole team. We lost the game. We played well enough on defense last week to put us in position to win the game. We didn’t play well enough on defense to win the game. We had our chances there in the end to do things to win the game for us. We didn’t quite get them done.”