San Francisco 49ers 2010 OTAs: Day 3 look at the defense

The 49ers wrapped up their third day of OTAs this week, and have provided a transcript from defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Manusky seems quite excited about some of the developments of this week of practice, particularly amongst the young guys. As always, we can only take so much out of non-padded practices, but any positive development is a good step forward.

What I found most interesting was that he seems to be happy with the development of second year defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois:

On whether he's committed to having DT Ricky Jean Francois as the backup NT or whether DT Isaac Sopoaga will compete:

"That's what we do. We have Isaac working behind Ricky Jean. It's the same situation with [NT] Aubrayo [Franklin] not being here. It gives his opportunities and ability to play in the National Football League and see the reps and see what he needs to work on, which is great for Ricky Jean. And he's doing a pretty good job." 

On whether he likes what he sees from Jean Francois:

"Yes, so far. Yes, very well."

Obviously take it for what it's worth, but RJF could take a step forward and become a solid backup option for Aubrayo Franklin, I'd be a very happy camper. As he currently stands, RJF would not seem to be big enough to be a starting nose tackle in the 3-4. He stands 6-3, 295 lbs, which would seem a bit undersized for a 3-4 nose tackle. I'm not sure if he's added weight in the offseason, so my assessment could be wrong.

I also am glad to see LeRoy Vann getting some practice time in the nickel cornerback role. It would appear he was signed primarily as a potential return man, but if he can prove himself as an adequate fill-in at cornerback, it will only help his chances of making the roster. When the team had Allen Rossum, he was pretty much never used as a cornerback outside of practice, but he was also a proven great return man. We'll see if Vann can prove himself sufficient to make the roster.

Given Vann's fairly limited role, I don't know if he could last very long on the practice squad, or even clear waivers to end up on the practice squad. I'd think there would be at least one team with space on their roster and need for a potentially strong return man. I'm very curious to see how training camp and the roster cuts play out for Vann.

Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky
Post-Practice - May 19, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

On whether he follows the philosophy that his defenders are mirror images of each other:

"From the standpoint, do you want all your players strong, fast, good instincts, vision, all of that, yes. So, every player has the best qualities that they have, but I think mirror image point, if I could have two [LB] Patrick Willis', I'd take them. For the most part, you want the safeties and the linebackers to be violent players and if they are both Patrick Willis' or both [S] Dashons [Goldson] or those type of players, that's what you like."

On whether he looks for different skill sets between the strong side and the weak side linebackers:

"I think a little bit you do. Right now, we are playing left and right and it interchanges between SAM and WILL, so sometimes a certain guy has a better job or a better feel in a zone situation where he can drop and have you put that linebacker there because he has more athletic ability than the other one. Maybe one has better pass rush skills if you put them on a certain side or something. It does maintain it a little bit, but if they are equal players, then put them on left and right and let them go."

On whether it is easier to disguise things if you're strong safety and free safety do a little bit of everything:

"I think it is across the board. If you have two inside linebackers that can play both the MIKE and TED, it's the same thing. Same thing with the outside linebackers, I think your disguise is a little bit better with safeties as well. The best thing in this league nowadays is to disguise because the quarterbacks are so well-versed in the coverages, especially during the film sessions."

On whether LB Navarro Bowman reminds him of Willis at all:

"I think he had a good career at Penn State and that's the reason we drafted him in the third round. We saw some potential in him and so far he's trying to learn as much as he can out there, which is hard as a rookie linebacker. He's doing well. Hopefully, each and every day he improves and gets better and better."

On whether it's hard for Bowman to play inside because he played outside at Penn State:

"I think a little bit. I think your instincts and your understanding of the game is pretty much the same across the board when you come out of college. Then all of a sudden, you try to pigeon hole him into a position that he should fit in your scheme or your defense and that's what we are trying to figure out, exactly where he is. It's a little bit harder now when there are no pads on, so we don't know his striking ability or his leverage that he plays with. You can gauge a little bit of it, but for the most part, it's kind of hard."

On the starting CBs not attending OTAs and if he sees that as an advantage to look at other guys:

"We coach the guys that are here. I know it's involuntary OTAs, they have other things that they have to do. Would we like them here? Yes. Does it help the other guys behind them build reps and see things over and over? Yes. So, for those younger guys and those second string guys that are playing behind [CB] Nate [Clements] and [CB] Shawntae [Spencer], it's great for them because they're getting the reps."

On CB Will James and where he fits in:

"Right now, Will is not practicing, but in a couple of weeks we're hoping to get him back. He's just a talented guy and we need some veteran leadership on the back end as well. I think he'll bring that to the organization."

On who he sees filling in at nickel back:

"I think right now, [CB] [Tarell] Brown and [CB] Phillip Adams will work at that position as well as [CB] LeRoy Vann. We're going to see what those two young guys can do there."

On Adams and Vann coming from small schools and if they have a lot of ground to make up:

"I think a lot of teams in the National Football League with the nickel back, he's got to be a very knowledgeable player. I think with Phillip and LeRoy, they have a chance to be that. We'll see where they go with it."

On whether he's committed to having DT Ricky Jean Francois as the backup NT or whether DT Isaac Sopoaga will compete:

"That's what we do. We have Isaac working behind Ricky Jean. It's the same situation with [NT] Aubrayo [Franklin] not being here. It gives his opportunities and ability to play in the National Football League and see the reps and see what he needs to work on, which is great for Ricky Jean. And he's doing a pretty good job." 

On whether he likes what he sees from Jean Francois:

"Yes, so far. Yes, very well."

On what he's seen from S Taylor Mays:

"Same thing with Navorro and Taylor and all of the young guys we have in here, it's tough. There are a lot of things thrown at them the first couple of weeks. They just got out of a scenario of a worldwide tour going to teams and stuff like that. It's good to get them here, start sitting them down, understand the system and understand where their role is. They'll eventually and hopefully move on and upward."

On how Mays is learning off the field:

"I think maybe after the end of the week, I think you get a better grasp of it. Being around him now, the teaching part from the coaching standpoint is continuing here, all the way until we pretty much get to training camp, less a couple weeks there in July. He'll be in there and he does a pretty good job of picking things up, which is always important."

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