Vic Fangio discusses injury updates, Saints dynamic offense

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media Thursday afternoon and discussed injury updates and the dominance of the Saints offense. We've got a transcript for your perusal.

Is LB Aldon Smith going to be starting Sunday's game? And what's his workload going to be?

"His workload will be increased from last week."

Will he be starting since LB Dan Skuta's dealing with an injury?

"I don't know that yet."

What about DT Ray McDonald? Do you expect him to play?

"It's iffy right now. He's made a lot of progress in the last few days. But, it's iffy."

How did DT Tony Jerod-Eddie play in this last game?

"Tony, he did fine. Him and [DT] Demarcus [Dobbs] came in there and basically split Ray's snaps and still had to sub for [DT] Justin [Smith] when we normally sub for him. And those two guys went in and did a nice job for us, played extremely well."

If Ray doesn't play, is that another timeshare situation on Sunday with Dobbs and Tony?

"Yes, probably will be all five guys. Justin will be doing his normal thing and it may mean that the other three guys will split Ray's snaps up slash nickel and base."

Will DT Quinton Dial or DT Tank Carradine get into that mix potentially?

"They could. Don't know yet for sure."

Is Carradine ready for NFL action?

"I don't know the answer to that."

Has DL Glenn Dorsey been working at end at all? Or is he just strictly nose?

"He's been mainly just playing nose."

Is this one of those games that you figure to be in nickel and dime a lot?

"It could be. It's up to them obviously. But, they do play a lot of two-wide-receiver sets and three-wide-receiver sets. Some games are heavier one way or the other. So, it could be."

When they are in three-wide-receiver sets, do you consider the tight end to be the fourth receiver? How have teams kind of addressed that? Do they go into their dime?

"Some teams have, some teams go to nickel. Kind of all depends upon your personnel on defense, how do you feel you'd best match up with him within the scheme that you're trying to play. He's their leading receiver. And he'll line up as a receiver a lot too, not just as a tight end. So, he's a tough matchup with his size and speed and catch radius. And him and [QB Drew] Brees got some good karma going and Brees likes to throw to him."

They didn't have Saints head coach Sean Payton last year, but do now. Are you able to draw on that game very much last year, or is the offense a lot different this time?

"The offense is basically the same. I just think they're calling it a little different. Sean's always been an excellent play caller. And their offense didn't change last year. I don't see it changing a whole lot this year. But, I do think the way they're calling the game and where they're putting the emphasis has changed a little bit, but not a lot. Not a lot."

Is some of that emphasis throwing to the backs?

"Well, they've always thrown to the backs. Anytime you've got [RB Darren] Sproles, you're going to throw to him. And [RB Pierre] Thomas, 23, has caught a bunch of balls, too, many of them screens. They have an excellent screen game, probably one of the better ones in the league. And they utilize it at all times in all situations. So, that's part of the reason their backs have so many catches. Plus, Sproles is lined up as a receiver a lot, too, not just a back. And he's catching balls out there when he's detached."

Does CB Eric Wright take over as backup nickel and dime back?

"Yeah, he basically right now will slide into the slot that [CB Perrish] Cox had."

What did you see from Eric these three, four weeks of practices?

"Well, he's progressively gotten more comfortable with everything. His first week out there he basically just took scout team snaps. And then the last few weeks we've given him more and more on defense. And obviously more this week now when you know he's going to be the back out there and take over for Cox. So, unlike some of these guys that are coming off long inactivity, he's not been injured, he knows how to play in the NFL. He's just got to learn how to play within our system."

Is that a difficult thing to do at this stage in the season? To take a guy out who's been here two years, knows the system, and then bringing somebody else in who's kind of learning it on the fly?

"Yeah it is difficult. We have a lot of guys here who are poster children for the importance of training camp. And he's one of the guys that didn't go through training camp with us. So, he's not as oiled up as he would be if he went through training camp with us. There's great importance to that time of the year."

Who are the poster children for being here for training camp?

"You guys can figure that out."

They had obviously 40 first downs, 625 yards, granted that was against the Cowboys defense, but as the defensive coordinator, when you look at a performance like that on film, do you say wow, this is a pretty nice challenge for us?

"I don't know that I would use the word nice. But, yeah these guys are really, really good on offense. And it isn't just that game against Dallas, you basically throw on any of their games. And having played them the last two years, they are really, really good on offense. Anytime you have a quarterback of his caliber playing in the same system for eight years with the weapons he has around him, and Sean doing a really good job of calling the game, it's a tough assignment."

Obviously that's such a nice system and those guys have been in place for so long. Is it a kind of thing where obviously they have TE Jimmy Graham and some other guys as weapons, but you can kind of throw in guys and that system is going to work kind of regardless almost?

"Well, when you have a quarterback like that, yes."

LB Ahmad Brooks doesn't get a lot of the attention that some of the other players on this defense gets. Is he having the best season you've seen? Where is he this year versus previous years?

"Pretty close. In my opinion, he's played really good all three years we've been here. And since he's become a starter, he's doing some things a little bit better. But, Ahmad's been a great player for us for three years. He hadn't gotten quite the notoriety that some of the other guys have gotten. But, trust me, the other players and the people in our building know how good he is and how important he is for us."

Do you expect to have S Eric Reid on Sunday?

"I think the chances are good for that. But, again that's up to the protocol that he's got to go through."

He talked about altering his style a little bit. His concussions have been on similar-type tackles. Have you talked to him about that? And how easy is that to change the way he tackles?
"I think he can. I think again, you've got to know who you're tackling, and the situation and the space involved, and the momentum involved. And I think he'll learn from those two plays."

Going back to Aldon, what does he have to do to convince you to get back on the starting lineup? Is it between him and LB Corey Lemonier to play that side if Skuta can, or?

"No, Aldon, we're trying to get a nice progressive buildup to him for him to where he comes back and plays more and more. He would have played more last week if the game had been a little different. The fourth quarter and you get behind and they were running, we weren't in sub very much. If we would have kept the lead and those last couple series would have been in sub, he probably would have got the amount of snaps we were looking for, and I think he's ready this week to get back to playing a lot. And he'll play a lot this week."

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