49ers Vs. Cardinals: Vic Fangio Discusses Kevin Kolb

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio chatted with the media before practice today and had a chance to chat about the differences between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton.

"Well, Kolb is, right off the bat, his scrambling and athletic ability jumps off the tape at me. He hurt Dallas last week scrambling several times. Once, a couple of times where he pulled it down and made good yards scrambling, and then when he scrambled to buy more time and hurt them with the throw. So, that's one thing that you'll see noticeably different is his scrambling abilities. He's got a big arm, Kolb does, a little more experienced. But Kolb's got a lot of ability and he's going to be a good quarterback for them for a long time."

We've focused a bit on Kolb this week in part because he is the most significant difference in this game compared to three weeks ago. There is a bit more of a "gun-slinger" mentality when Kevin Kolb is back there. That does not necessarily mean the Cardinals are a better team with him (although I think they are), but they present a slightly different challenge to opposing defenses.

The 49ers secondary has been a bit maligned at times this year, and I have seen people go so far as to call them wildly overrated (twitter really is a magical place). The 49ers secondary displays some inconsistencies at times, but I would argue they are a sufficiently solid unit. When you've got an historically dominant rush defense, the pass defense gets a bit more leeway and help.

Football Outsiders currently ranks the 49ers pass defense 8th. They rank 16th in passing yards allowed, but they are 9th in yards per attempt, 9th in completion percentage against, and 4th in opponent's QB rating. Numbers can prove just about anything, so feel free to take them with a grain of salt, but I think the 49ers defense is better than some folks would otherwise think. They are not on the level of the 49ers run defense, but they are pretty solid.

Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - December 8, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Vic, when you face a team three weeks apart, do you game plan the first week with an idea of what you might do the second time you play too?

"No. You take every game as its own entity. We played that game three weeks ago. We did everything possible we could to win that game, and we'll do the same thing this game. I don't think you can look ahead. You've got to take every game as its own entity."

When you asked these guys way back in training camp, ‘hey, we might have to spend some extra time here to get up to speed,' what was the reaction from the players?

"Positive. They were ready to do it. Never had one negative vibe from anybody, whether it be verbally, or body language, or anything. So, it was never an issue. These guys knew we were behind the eight ball a little bit with no offseason and three new systems to put in, and they came here prepared ready to do the work to catch up."

And do you think that's maybe a reason why you guys, I mean both on offense and defense, you're very consistent. There doesn't seem to be much dip from week to week. Do you think that's one of the reasons for it?

"I think so. I think the team's got a workman-like attitude. They're just going to keep sawing wood and keep playing each play one at a time and go from there. There's just been a good attitude right from the get-go."

Are you expecting to be without LB Patrick Willis for this game?

"They haven't determined that yet."

Can LB Larry Grant replace him? I mean Patrick Willis is a three-down player and I'm assuming because he and LB NaVorro Bowman are so fast, you can keep them on the field on third downs. Can you do that with Larry Grant out there as well?

"Yes. We did that last week when Patrick got hurt very early in the game. We didn't change anything."

Who is next in line after Larry Grant?

"It'd probably be [LB] Tavares Gooden."

In essence, would NaVorro be replacing Patrick, and Larry replacing NaVorro, so to speak?

"No."

You just plug him right in?

"Yes."

What's the difference in Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb from Cardinals QB John Skelton to Kevin Kolb for Arizona's offense?

"Well, Kolb is, right off the bat, his scrambling and athletic ability jumps off the tape at me. He hurt Dallas last week scrambling several times. Once, a couple of times where he pulled it down and made good yards scrambling, and then when he scrambled to buy more time and hurt them with the throw. So, that's one thing that you'll see noticeably different is his scrambling abilities. He's got a big arm, Kolb does, a little more experienced. But Kolb's got a lot of ability and he's going to be a good quarterback for them for a long time."

Coach Harbaugh was saying yesterday it takes players about two years to get a full grasp of the offensive system. Is there like the same kind of timeline for defense as well with your system?

"It probably is. I think it all depends upon the background of the player. Obviously, you compare where [LB] Aldon Smith's come from to learn our total package as a defensive lineman in college coming in here, comparing it to Patrick, or [LB] Parys [Haralson] who have played in a 3-4 before, been linebackers, know what it takes. I think it's individually."

How does the communication now work with relaying the plays into the huddle?

"Larry. Well, we may change that. Last week it was Larry. Larry's always been the backup helmet guy. We may change that this week and go with NaVorro."

What's going to determine that?

"All the different packages we have. And then you can always-you can have both of them have it. The rule is you can't have two guys out on the field with a radio in their helmet. So, if you have Larry and NaVorro with it in their helmet, the backup guy has a second helmet. So, he's got to change his helmet. So, if NaVorro's doing it, Larry's got one helmet without the radio. If NaVorro can't do it anymore, if he gets hurt, then it goes into Larry. When NaVorro goes out, Larry's got to change his helmet."

Did Larry have it when he was on special teams last week?

"No."

So, he would have a second helmet?

"Yeah, he's got a second helmet. When Patrick's available, [Larry Grant] plays without the radio in his helmet until he's got to go in."

What's the status of CB Carlos Rogers and how has he been-you've had basically the same defensive secondary most of the season, so how does that help on a communication aspect once you get going with these pass-oriented teams?

"It helps tremendously. The nickel is, when you go into your sub-defenses, he's kind of the guy that keeps it all together up front there. He's basically playing the linebacker position when he's playing nickel and it's a specialty position. It's one many teams forget about when they're putting their team together. And you've got to have at least two of those guys that can play on the slot at nickel, and Carlos has come in and done a really good job with that for us. And we think he'll be fine this week."

What's been your impression of CB Tarell Brown, just off the field?

"Off the field?"

Yeah, off the field.

"A real pro. The guy works really hard in the meetings, watching film, taking notes, studying, asking questions. He does everything off the field that you would want a guy to do."

When he entered the league there were questions about his character.

"Really? That surprises me, and again, I knew nothing about him until I got here. I was even surprised that he's been in the league four years, I think you guys have said, right? Is this his fourth year?"

2007 was his first year.

"Seven, eight, nine, this is his fifth year. So, I didn't even know who he was until I got here. And sometimes it takes guys time. I don't know what his circumstances were, but where he's at today, what my exposure to him since the beginning of training camp, I'd have a hard time believing that he had any issues on or off the field."

Vic, the way the schedule's gone, with the exception of Giants QB Eli Manning, you guys haven't had what people would consider to be a top-flight quarterback in a little while. Considering that you're going to probably face some in playoffs, is it somewhat welcome to, well obviously you want to win the games, but facing Kolb and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger?

"Oh you mean these next few games?"

Yeah, could that be a good test for the secondary to get ready for the playoffs?

"Yeah."

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