49ers Training Camp: Defensive Jobs Remain Up In The Air

49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio spoke to the media after practice on Saturday and provided some insight we don't always get from coaches. A lot of teams you hear some fairly generic comments without a whole ton of substance. If you check out the video here, or the transcript after the jump, Coach Fangio touched on a whole variety of topics.

The most significant point he made was how many jobs were on the line heading into camp. When you've got multiple starters leaving town that isn't exactly the most shocking of statements to make. After Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, we have some ideas of starters but competition looms.

Ray McDonald and Isaac Sopoaga would appear to be the likely starters at left defensive end and nose tackle. NaVorro Bowman has the inside track at the TED linebacker position. Two of Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith will end up starting, but it's simply a matter of which ones. Coach Fangio indicated Shawntae Spencer is one of the front runners at cornerback, but pending any free agent additions that is to be expected.

What I did find interesting was his discussion of the safety position. Barring the return of Dashon Goldson, both safety positions remain up in the air. CJ Spillman and Reggie Smith were starting on Friday, but Fangio indicated he could very well switch up the starters from day to day to find the best fit at free and strong safety. Matt Barrows indicated Spillman couldn't practice now for the next few days because he technically was a free agent (exclusive rights free agent). However, given that he practiced on Friday, I'm not sure I totally get that.

For now, here's video of Coach Fangio's press conference, with the transcript after the jump.

Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - July 30, 2011
San Francisco 49ers 

Listen to Audio I Media Center

On whether he discovered anything new on defense the last two days of training camp that he didn't know before:

"I really don't know if I found anything out that I didn't expect or didn't know up to this point because we didn't know what to expect. So, obviously we need a lot of work. Obviously, we know we all knew we would be behind, and that hits you right in the face how far behind we are, but we've taken the attitude that we're going, like they used to say in maternity, ‘don't tell us about the pain - just show us the baby.' So, we're going to get there as quickly and as fast as we can."

On whether he is taking a different approach in coaching this year, in terms of having a shortened training camp:

"It's more difficult because obviously we would have had 20 some practices before this in the spring that we didn't have now, but my attitude has been we are going to still try and throw as much at them as we would have, if we had a normal offseason for the most part, because we need to find out what this team is all about and what best fits our defense. So, if we try and go too slow and hold off in inserting things because we don't want to go too fast since we haven't had all these practices, we wouldn't find out that we wish we would've inserted it because maybe it's a good fit for our guys. So we want to insert as much as we can and then see what best fits our guys, and then maybe tone it back; if that makes any sense to you." 

On whether he thought about offering an offseason defensive playbook similar to the playbook the offense receives:

"No, offense is different. There's a lot of memorization. They can learn formations, learn motions, learn shifts, study routes, you know. We got to do a lot of reacting on defense.  Instinctive stuff needs to be, is that, a more of a premium on defense than on offense. So, I really felt there wouldn't be much to gain by that and I still feel that way." 

On whether he resisted looking at film of his defense during the offseason, as he mentioned he wouldn't back in February:

"I did resist for the most part and basically, what we told the squad, the defensive team, is obviously there's a few starting positions here that are solidified. Most of the other ones are wide open. You know, and I told them, to be honest, I would be lying to you if all 11 are open. You guys know the two or three guys who are entrenched here by their past performances, and unless they fall off a cliff, they'll still be here. We've got a lot of jobs open. As it looks now, I think, five starters from last year's team at this moment are not here and don't look promising for them to be here. So, that's a whole new defense right there when you have to replace half of them, at least half of them. It might be more." 

On media guessing the two or three starters:

[DT] [Justin] Smith and [LB] [Patrick] Willis. Who's the other one?" 

On media guessing Shawntae Spencer:

"Yeah, he's in the front. Yeah, I mean, yeah. There's a lot of jobs open, trust me." 

On how defense meets both needs:

"Well, they've only had two days of insertion, so far so they've only seen 20 to 30 percent of it up to this point, so that's an accurate assessment on their part because there's a lot more to come. So we're trying to establish concepts in these first few days so we can build on those and then add as we move forward, but we're going to add. But, we want to make the first few days relatively painless for them, as much as possible, but we were aggressive in what we put in I think. Aggressive in how much we put in, I don't mean the stuff we put in being aggressive." 

On what he likes about S C.J. Spillman:

"We like his ability, his raw ability and his raw tools. We don't have any starting safeties right now. All those guys are fighting for it. Some days two guys may work with the first unit, the next day it might be somebody else. We don't have anybody that's entrenched as a starter at safety right now." 

On whether he'd be comfortable going into a regular season game with who they have on the field right now:

"Well, I've got no choice right there. We have to be comfortable with what we have. Whatever we got is what we got and that's what we go forward with. You're always looking to get better, but whether we will or won't is up to the front office and management on that." 

On whether there's opportunity for LB Aldon Smith and LB Parys Harrison to switch sides:

"They can switch. Right now, our outside linebackers are playing left and right. That can switch. One guy can go over to the left side one day and vice versa, so we don't know exactly how we are going to play our guys, if we are going to stay left and right or if we are going to be in a mode where we are going to flip them. It's way too early for that." 

On how he makes that decision (from previous question):

"Right. How it best fits each guy's skill set and if they're vastly different, maybe we can tailor one guy's job more to what he does better than the other guy."

On whether the outside linebackers are included in the group where there's no starter yet:

"Probably, but yeah, I would say so, but I think we got a little bit more there than - less unsettlement there than we do in other positions." 

On whether the defensive line looks pretty set:

"Yeah, we got [DT] Ray [McDonald], [DT] Isaac [Sopoaga], [DT] Justin [Smith], [DT] Ricky Jean [Francois] and who else am I missing? And [DT] Will [Tukuafu]. Guys that were here last year, have done well. A lot of the things we are going to be doing here carry over the techniques they have done in the past. Those guys I think feel comfortable moving forward." 

On the progress of undrafted rookie Ian Williams:

"Yes, I think he's shown a little bit here in the first couple days, that at this point, an undrafted rookie, you can almost put in three phases. One, this guy's got no chance. Two, this guy's got a chance or three, hey, we might have found something and he's in that, he's got a chance. He's definitely not a waste right now." 

On whether Williams' is in that middle grounds:

"Yeah, yep." 

On whether there are any number three's (we might have found something here):

"Not yet. Takes a while more than that to happen. We haven't even had pads on yet." 

On whether not having the ability to go 2-a-days in pads affects his coaching:

"It does a little bit obviously, but I don't look at it as very much of a detriment. Obviously, what's new versus what's happened in the past in the NFL is these first two days could have been two-a-days, they could have been with full gear. I personally agree with what they've done. I think the players needed an acclimation period to get in here and get football movement without all the gear on and banging. I think they're more ready now to do that moving forward now and I'd still believe that even if it wasn't a lockout year, so I think what they've done in that regard has been good and smart and we'll be fine moving forward. Our biggest issue is overcoming the 25 practices we lost and all that meeting time, and a lot of little details haven't been covered yet with these guys through nobody's fault, not the coaches fault, not the players fault. We just haven't had a lot of time yet, but we'll get there."

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