Niners defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has made some changes since the big switch. Whereas before he was up in the booth on game days, now he is calling plays from the sideline. This gives Manusky the ability to communicate freely with is players between series, he said.
“I feel a lot more comfortable on the sideline,” said Manusky, who played 12 NFL seasons. “I feel like a caged rat upstairs.”
But that’s not the only change. The 49ers have settled into a 3-4 defense, rather than using the hybrid scheme that former coach Mike Nolan preferred. Manusky seems to favor the type of system he coached under with Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator of the Chargers.
This week, I spoke with Manusky and here is our Q&A:
Q: How is the process of game-planning for an opponent different than it was before the coaching change?
Manusky: “It’s similar to what it was. We’re shooting ideas back and forth between the assistants and Mike Singletary. That’s basically what it was when Mike (Nolan) was here, as well.”
Q: Does Mike Singletary take on a more active role than he did before?
Manusky: “He’s pretty busy right now, being the head coach. He’s in there at times. He has other things to deal with, so it’s a little bit different. He’s not in there as much as he normally was.”
Q: Do you feel more autonomy in putting together the plan?
Manusky: “It’s universal with the assistant coaches and myself and Mike, when he’s in there. There’s a lot of back and forth.”
Q: It looks as if you’ve settled into more of a 3-4. Is that accurate?
Manusky: “Yeah, for the most part we’re a 3-4 (team) right now. We can transition down or up, and sometimes Justin (Smith) will play an outside linebacker position or over the tight end.”
Q: Why are you playing more 3-4?
Manusky: “Just because we’re getting Manny (Lawson) out there and Parys (Haralson) out there. And for the people we have, players we have, it’s the best fit.”
Q: Has the defense changed much since the coaching change?
Manusky: “Yeah, a little bit here and there. Not vast changes, like terminology or anything like that. We try to stick with the same terminology that we’ve had for the last year and a half.”
Q: What’s an example of how the defense has changed?
Manusky: “Like we talked about, from a 4-3 to a 3-4. We’re just using different alignments by the linemen in that sense — different fronts. There are slight changes across the board. It’s working pretty good in the run game. Now, we just have to make sure we get more pass rush.”
Q: Are you taking a little of what you learned with Wade Phillips and a little of what you learned from Mike Nolan?
Manusky: “Yes, I’m trying to take what I learned with Wade Phillips and the same thing with Mike, and combine them together and try to get the best fit for the players we have here. Sometimes you don’t want to stick that round peg in that square hole. You try to fit it to what the players can do and what they can’t do.”
Q: Is it important that the defensive players find an identity?
Manusky: “Yes. From a player’s perspective, it’s easier on them because they know what to expect when they come into the building each and every Monday. And if you have consistency with little tweaks here and there, that isn’t bad. But when you make vast changes, it’s tough on them. They feel comfortable and stout in what they do, and that’s the main defense we play and we run with it.”
Q: Do you feel that Manny is coming along?
Manusky: “He’s getting better each and every week. When he had his hamstring injury at midseason that kind of set him back. Coming back from the knee, early in the season, there’s always hesitation because I don’t even know if it was a full year since he got hurt. He’s in stride now. He’s making improvements each and every week. The same thing with Parys. They’re trying to get better. And the more you see it and the more you’re playing, the more comfortable you get.”
Q: Is Manny a three-down player?
Manusky: “I think he is. Each and every week he plays, he gets better and is excelling across the board. The sky’s the limit for him.”
Q: After Nate Clements’ performance last week against the Cowboys, do you reconsider whether to have him shadow the opponents’ top receiver?
Manusky: “No. You have the players and have the best game plan that suits the players from week to week. Sometimes it changes. Other times it stays consistent. He is still a quality football player in this business.”
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49ers: CB Walt Harris (hamstring), WR Arnaz Battle (foot) and WR Josh Morgan (groin) are questionable. They all went through limited practice.
WR Jason Hill (groin) and LB Patrick Willis (ankle) are probable, meaning it’s a near-certainly they will play. Hill went through limited practice, while Willis participated fully.
As previously reported, KR Allen Rossum (ankle) and S Dashon Goldson (knee) are out.
Bills: Starting TE Robert Royal (hamstring) is out. Backup TE Derek Schouman is 50-50 with a hamstring injury. That means rookie TE Derek Fine could get the start. Starting SS Donte Whitner is doubtful with a shoulder injury, and OLB Keith Ellison (ankle) is questionable. Ellison’s backup, Teddy Lehman, is out with a hamstring injury. Starting CB Jabari Greer (knee) is out, too.
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