Lawson out for this week’s game

 Linebacker Manny Lawson will not play in Sunday’s game against the Patriots due to a hamstring strain, 49ers coach Mike Nolan said today.

Linebacker Manny Lawson will not play in Sunday’s game against the Patriots due to a hamstring strain, 49ers coach Mike Nolan said today. Tackle Jonas Jennings (shoulder) is also out, as is cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who is out for the season after undergoing ACL surgery last week.

The 49ers have not played Spencer on IR because there is nobody they can sign that would get onto their 45-man game-day roster, Nolan said. So if the 49ers were to add someone, it would only be as a practice player.

Everybody else is expected to practice today, except RB Frank Gore and CB Walt Harris, both of whom get their regular Wednesday rest.

Here some other highlights of Nolan’s meeting with the media this morning:

–Tully Banta-Cain could be active this week in Lawson’s place. “We’ll see how he practices,” Nolan said.

–Nolan said he plans get try to get more and more playing time for Lawson when he returns from his injury. Lawson has not gotten much playing time this season. When he plays, he’s been primarily a first-down player. When the 49ers go to their “sub” and “big sub” packages, Lawson is the first player who comes off the field. Nolan said he thinks Lawson is a good player and doesn’t like looking on the sideline and seeing him there. Nolan said the addition of Justin Smith and Ray McDonald’s emergence as a pass-rusher has contributed to a dip in Lawson’s playing time, too.

–When asked if the 49ers took a step back against the Saints, Nolan said it was a bad game. He said what matters is how the team responds to that poor performance. He said the errors in pass defense were more technical errors. He cited a play in the fourth quarter in which Nate Clements was playing press coverage against Devery Henderson on a third-and-13. Henderson beat Clements deep for an 81-yard gain. He also mentioned Michael Lewis’ play when had great position against Robert Meachem on the flea-flicker but didn’t make a play on the ball. Nolan was more willing to give the Saints credit on the play in which Lance Moore beat Mark Roman and Dashon Goldson for a touchdown.

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I asked Nolan about what he wants to accomplish with his “sub” and “big sub” packages. Here’s what he said:

“Everybody in the league does it. Simple case, if you stay in base when they go to three wide receivers and you have a lot of confidence that Takeo Spikes can cover Wesley Walker, then you try to do that. In our case, I’d like to think we have a better matchup with a defensive back. (It’s) a standard throughout the NFL. It’s a matchup issue. That’s all it really is.

“You can get away doing it the other way if you’re strictly a zone team. You can leave any group on and get through the down, and we do that at times. But the personnel on the field, whether offensively or defensively, is a matchup game. If it was good to stay with one standard group, even offensively, people would do that. Typically, if your best players are one personnel group, you’ll stay with them longer. But football has evolved from 30, 40 years ago where now there are a lot of players going onto the field. Teams need five and six wide receivers because four of them are out there at one time.

“There’s a reason on third down that you see a lot of little guys out there. When they do change, you want to make sure you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to a mismatch, so somebody can take advantage of you.”

And does Nolan feel like his nickel defenses have been successful this season?

“Sure,” Nolan answered. “The Seattle game, that was the lowest-percentage game that quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck) has ever had. We got a couple picks in the game. Obviously, we didn’t get as many sacks as you’d like, but you have a better chance of getting sacks with the group out there than with the regular group. When you have a good game, you like what you did. “The disappointment of the day (against the Saints) had more to do with the explosive passes than anything else. It wasn’t a scheme issue.”

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