Fangio: “We’ve got 5 safeties who can play in the NFL.” Mays not one of them.

SANTA CLARA – Vic Fangio gave another blunt assessment of his defense this morning in the media tent next to the practice fields in Santa Clara.

He refused once again to name Shawntae Spencer a starting cornerback, and he implied that Taylor Mays is not an NFL-caliber safety right now, listing Reggie Smith, Dashon Goldon, Donte Whitner, Madieu Williams, and C.J. Spillman as the only safeties on the roster who “can play in the NFL.”

Here’s the complete transcript of the press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.

On where there were improvements from last week’s game:

“I thought our backups came in and played better than they did previously in New Orleans last week, when we gave up a couple scores after we started making changes, and this week we didn’t do that. I thought we played solid from the start to the finish more than we did last week.”

On whether he played fewer players this week:

“No. Kind of what happened was we had those couple of long drives offensively which ate up a good bit of time in the first half. So the way it happened, prior to the last drive in the first half, our starters had gotten 13 plays, so we had to make a decision there whether to give them the last drive or not, which was about four or five minutes to go in the half. That ended up being a long drive, so the starters ended up getting 26 plays in the first half, which wasn’t the plan but they were at 13. Hopefully we could have had a three, four, or five play series and could have had another series in the first half, so because of the way our offense had the ball and where we were with our numbers and the starters, we only had 52 snaps on defense, so that made it harder to play everybody.”

On whether he has seen enough from CB Shawntae Spencer to decide if he is a starter:

“Well, we really haven’t seen him much, myself and the rest of the staff, because I think he practiced one day before he hurt his hamstring. So, the answer to your question is no, we haven’t seen enough of him. The other half of that equation is yes, he has played in the league a lot and there is a lot of tape out there to see, but like anything else, you like to see it with your own eyes within your own system to see exactly where a guy stands. We don’t have a lot of information there right now.”

On CB Tarrell Brown and CB Tramaine Brock:

“Well that will sort itself out once we get everyone healthy and playing, but we did like the way they both played. We did have a couple plays thrown out in the flat there at the corner position that should have been defended better. There were more mental errors than physical errors, but I think that all remains to be seen. Both Brock and Brown are definitely in the hunt, all the way from being starters to being in stunt packages.”

On whether the quartet of LBs is similar to what he had in New Orleans several years back:

“I can’t compare them to that group because that group was special in itself, but they’re progressing well. Obviously, Patrick Willis is very established in what he’s done in the league and we expect him to continue that play and even improve on it. But everybody else that you’re seeing out there is unproven. NaVorro has never been a starter, Parys has been a sometime starter and Brooks really hasn’t ever been a full time starter, so to go to that extreme already is probably not warranted, but we’re happy with the way they’re playing as individuals and as a unit, but that’s the extent of it right now.”

On DT Demarcus Dobbs’ status as an undrafted rookie:

“I’d say he’s still in the middle group, but he’s had a good camp, made some good plays in the games and has played very well here since he got with us when training camp started. I wouldn’t go that far yet, but he’s definitely somebody that we noticed and he’s had a good camp. He’s got a chance to make this team.”

On whether he has simplified his playbook because of the shorter time for players to pick it up:

“I don’t know if simplified is the right word, maybe inserted at a slower pace than what we normally would have. So this week in particular, a lot of teams are into game planning for the third preseason game or looking at early opponents; we’re still viewing it as we’re still in training camp for another week defensively and still have some packages and calls we’d like to put in. We’re going to work on that this week. So, it’s slowed the process down, but not simplified.

On whether he’s had to add any training sessions or pop quizzes in regards to the shortened amount of preparation time:

“No, I mean it had been hard for us to do anything more than what we did here the first – I guess it’s been three weeks or whatever. These guys are basically here for 15 hours a day straight from the start of training camp until last week, so it had been hard for us to do anything more than what we did.”

On what he envisions S Reggie Smith’s role being when he is back:

“He’s definitely in the mix there for us at the safety position. We feel good with Whitner, him, Goldson, Williams, and Spillman. We feel like we’ve got five safeties there that can play in the NFL. Some of them have great special teams value over the others, so if we have to keep four, that will be a hard decision. If we keep five, I think they will all be different pieces that we will use during the season.”

On whether he keeps the same 49ers terminology as last year:


On whether he saw specific things they have made progress on from week one’s game against the Saints:

“No, not really. One thing, the Saints were a little better team than the Raiders are at this time, so I think that factors into it. But I think we played well last week against the Saints too, particularly the first quarter and a half or so. So I’ve been pleased with the way we’ve performed early on.”

On how he envisions the tie breaker working out between safety or linebacker positions for scrimmage or special teams:

“Well, each case in those scenarios that you’re painting there are different. Our third inside backer and our third outside backer are critical to the defense. Maybe the special teams value weighs in more when you are picking the fourth inside backer or the fourth outside backer, if you keep four at each spot. You may not keep four at each spot. I think in certain positions the special teams weight is in more than at other positions, as far as the numbers.”

On what the 49ers are doing in response to the violence at the stadium and in regards to the next game coming up:

“No, I don’t know. You know, I coach defense. Those questions need to be addressed to management, ownership.”

On whether he is afraid of any future violence:

“No. But again, I’m probably the least person qualified to answer any of those questions.”

On whether he is still in the evaluation stage regarding the defense:

“I think we’re still in the evaluation stage. Part of that reason is because we’ve had guys in and out of the lineup. [CB] Carlos Rogers didn’t practice much last week and didn’t play in the game. Shawntae Spencer’s been out. Goldson just got here after missing maybe the first 10 or 12 days, whatever it was. Madieu Williams is feeling his way around. We got him after camp started. You have some rookies that are feeling their way in to being in the NFL without any off season. Their maturation is a process going on, so I don’t think we’ve gotten to that point yet, but it’s an ongoing process.”


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