Vic Fangio discusses incoming NFI players, Donte Whitner and more

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media on Thursday. He discussed the Cardinals offense, players coming off the NFI list, Donte Whitner's performance this season and more. New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

How do you feel just about the way the defense has rallied these last few weeks with a couple very significant guys out of the lineup?

"Well, the guys that have come in and replaced those guys have played well enough for us to keep playing the way we like to play. And our guys have just played good team defense these last few weeks, and have for the most part during the season. And that's the way we expect it to be. We've just got to move on."

Do you find yourself dialing up more pressures without LB Aldon Smith in there?

"Not necessarily. It's still based upon the situation and what I feel we need at the appropriate time. But, occasionally you might need to do one or two more without him out there. But, we haven't done a whole lot more."

What does CB Tramaine Brock allow you to do more of as he's been getting that game-time opportunity?

"We haven't really changed the way we call our coverages a whole lot. He's just played very good when he's been in there these last two weeks. And, hopefully that'll continue. But, he's done a nice job in his coverages, both when he's been one on one or in our zones, or when he's had some over-the-top help. He's played within the entire scheme and played it good. And that's been good to see. Tramaine was a starter when we started the 2011 season in our nickel package. And then he got hurt and [CB Chris] Culliver came in and it gave Culliver the opportunity and Culliver kept it. Now, he's finally getting his opportunity back and he's making the most of it right now."

Head coach Jim Harbaugh indicated on Monday that Tramaine would remain in that role. Is that a conversation you've had to have with CB Nnamdi Asomugha?

"Yeah, we talked about it last week. Haven't had to talk about it this week, obviously."

And so was Nnamdi healthy enough to play last week?

"He was healthier than he had been and probably could have played some."

When do you envision CB Eric Wright being able to not just practice with the team, but to have enough practice to be able to contribute to the team, meaning on the 53-man roster?

"I don't know. I'll be better able to answer that after he goes through some practices out here. To get in shape and run with the strength coaches and the trainers and do drills is one thing, but football is another. And he's learning our system in meetings. But, learning it in a meeting and executing it on the field is two different things. So, if and when he's ready to play and play well, we'll activate him, put him on the 53 and go."

Does that go double for the two rookies given that they don't have any NFL experience?

"Well, it does. You always tell these guys in rookies, they go through OTA's and the spring work. And then when you get back for training camp you tell them, hey now this stuff's going to speed up, practices in training camp aren't like practices in OTA's. And then you get to a preseason game and you say, hey this preseason game is going to be a lot different than practice. It's going to be amped up more. And then when you get to a regular season game you tell them hey, these regular season games are more than preseason games. They're amped up even more. So, here we are right dead in the middle of the regular season and these guys have missed all those steps. So, when they're ready, and I have no idea when that'll be, they'll place them. We'll activate them and play them. But, until then, I think it'd be a mistake to put them out there too early."

I don't know if you can quantify this, or compare it to anything you've experienced in the past, but the cornerback situation you have right now, your two starters, and then Nnamdi, Tramaine, in a couple weeks or whatever, Eric Wright, CB Perrish Cox. What do you think of just the depth you have at that spot?

"Well, right now we feel good about those six guys. We feel that if we have to play any of them we'll just continue to play our package the way we like to play it and make an adjustment here or there. But, we feel good about those guys. A lot of them are very close in their abilities, it hasn't always been easy to distinguish on who to play in certain situations. But, obviously it's good to have choices."

Could injuries on the defensive line potentially expedite the process with DT Quinton Dial and DT Tank Carradine?

"They could. But, you've got to guard against doing that. I still think we have to get these guys ready to play and be fair to them."

Is there a realistic time that you're envisioning in your head for when Tank Carradine could be on the field?

"Not really. I remember you guys asking about it back in training camp and I said I didn't know then, and I don't know any more now than I did then. These guys have got to not only be able to play physically, they've got to be able to execute. It's no good just throwing a guy out there and making mistakes. So, it's a very fluid situation."

What do you see from a Cardinals offense, obviously a new coordinator, kind of strange that it's also C Jonathan Goodwin's brother. So, how are they different this year? What are the biggest changes they've made offensively?

"Well, number one they've got a new quarterback in [QB] Carson Palmer. And he's a very good player, always has been. Excellent passer. Can make all the throws, deep, short and intermediate. They've got their really good receiving group, which is similar to what they had last year led by [WR Larry] Fitzgerald. They've got two good tight ends in [TE Jim] Dray and [TE Rob] Housler. And they changed the running backs. They've got [RB Rashard] Mendenhall and 38 [RB Andre Ellington] in there. And these guys are good backs. And I think they've got a very talented offense in the skill positions. And they started off the season well, scoring a bunch of points, then they had some injuries, and they struggled for a week or two. But, these guys look good on tape offensively and they're doing good things scheme wise."

Well, what kind of scheme-wise are they? Because obviously Houston was more of a misdirection offense, what do they do different?

"These guys are more of a downhill-running team, play-action team, and a drop-back team. Then with Palmer they're comfortable throwing short, intermediate and deep. And they like throwing it deep some and use their receivers."

Is it possible as long as Brock is your nickel corner, Nnamdi will be inactive on game days?

"Sure, that's possible."

Another one on the corners, in the offseason you were asked a couple times you know CB Carlos Rogers is getting older, can he cover the slot, etc., etc. You were always very confident in his ability to do that. Are you pleased with the way things have gone so far this year?

"With Carlos?"

Yeah.

"Yeah, Carlos has played well. Carlos is a guy that, obviously, now is a very experienced player. He is a very smart player. He thinks from above the neck. He's very, very good at playing the game intelligently, on the run, making adjustments, playing routes, etc. And he's still a very talented player. So, we're very pleased to have him. And we're lucky to have him."

How far has DL Glenn Dorsey come at nose tackle?

"He's done well. Glenn has kind of had to change the way he's played his techniques that he was engrained in doing at Kansas City. To his credit, he came here day one right after he signed and threw himself into our offseason program, got himself in the best shape he's been in, I believe, since he's been in pro football. And he's doing a nice job for us, and he's fitting in well with the guys and everybody loves having him on the team."

Are you planning on LB Patrick Willis coming back this week?

"I think the chances are better than they were last week. And last week we thought he might be back, but he wasn't ready. And we'll see. He practiced yesterday. We'll see how he does today."

Do you expect Aldon Smith to play again this season?

"I don't know that yet. I don't know that yet."

There's been a lot of talk about S Donte Whitner with the name change and certain hits. But, how would you assess his play this year? He's integrated the rookie safety, and been pretty good in coverage it looks like.

"I think he's played even better than he had last year when he made the Pro Bowl. He's still tackling very well. He's running our operation back there, as you alluded to, with a rookie. He's just playing with a lot more confidence. And he's playing a little bit faster. Again, third year in the system. I don't know. It's hard to say the guy's playing better when he had a Pro Bowl season last year. But, he is playing better. And he's really enjoying playing. He's having a lot of fun and he's kind of become a leader of the secondary, and a leader on the team."

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