49ers minicamp: Vic Fangio talks Eric Reid, Lawrence Okoye development

Thearon W. Henderson

The 49ers defensive coordinator spoke with the media on Wednesday. He had a chance to discuss the 49ers various defensive rookies.

49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media on Wednesday, and had a chance to talk about a little bit of everything. Fangio spent a good deal of time talking about the 49ers rookies and how they are progressing. He made it clear he could not give a complete picture of anybody given there are no pads at practice, but he did provide some interesting comments about the development process.

When asked about Eric Reid's progress he provided his thoughts on the development process for any rookie:

The first step in a rookie's got to learn what to do to where he can actually tell you what he's supposed to do. And then he's got to be able to show you he knows how to do it. And then he's got to be able to make the adjustments on the run that come within those different assignments and techniques.

Fangio said that he felt Reid knows what to do at this point, but does not always know how to do it, or what the proper adjustments would be on a given play. Reid himself has said there are times when he will make the incorrect read or call on a play. Fangio said it often comes along when a light just sort of goes on for a young player.

Fangio also made a few quick comments about Lawrence Okoye. Given that Okoye has never played football before, the learning curve is bigger than anybody else on the team. Given that he's never even played so much as peewee football, it's impossible to know where he's at right now:

"You see some potential, yes. But, still it's a game that you have to know how to play. And it's going to be a matter of how quickly he learns how to play. He hasn't had anybody hit him yet. He hasn't had a double team yet. He hasn't figured out if it's a run or pass whether he should rush, or play the run. So, it'll probably be a very slow process with him much more than a normal rookie."

The preseason doesn't tell us a lot about players, but Okoye is one guy where it will give us a significant clue as to where he has progressed in a few short months. I'm really excited to see him on the football. Whether he completely flops, shows off a lot of skill, or is somewhere in the middle, at least we'll have something from which to work.

Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - June 12, 2013
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

So, offensive coordinator Greg Roman had said yesterday, obviously he'd been through two offensive installs already and it was more for him about execution. What is it about for you during this mini-camp with the defense?

"Well, the mini-camp is just a continuation of the OTAs where we're installing our defense. Teaching the assignments, the fundamentals, the techniques and the concepts, the different concepts that we will use during the season, and we're installing them now. We're not in the game planning, or playing any particular type of offense. It's just installing and inserting all of our concepts."

You've got a lot of reinforcements through the draft, free agency somewhat along the defensive line. Is the intent to have more platooning this year to give those starters more of a rest during the regular season?

"Well, that's a possibility. But, those guys have to earn the right to be allowed to be put in the game. You just don't platoon guys just for the sake of platooning them. You don't want to go down in the quality of your play just for the sake of playing guys. But, those guys, the guys you're alluding to haven't practiced yet, and I don't know when they'll be able to practice. So, whatever contributions they can make is really up in the air yet."

I was going to ask you when do you think DT Tank Carradine and DT Quinton Dial will be able to rejoin practices?

"Not anytime soon. But, I don't know the exact date."

Will you expect him to be ready for training camp?

"I don't think so in the beginning."

CB Nnamdi Asomugha says he's a good fit in this defense. What have you seen that kind of makes him a good fit? Or do you feel the same way?

"Well, that remains to be seen in Nnamdi's case, too. I do think he's a good fit as a guy and a person. He's been a tremendous guy here. He's learning. He's been a real pro. Remains to be seen how well he can cover. Guys got to be able to cover at the corner position. But, I do think our style of play does potentially fit his style where he's at in his career right now. So, hopefully he can make a strong contribution to us. But, that's yet to be determined."

How's S Eric Reid coming along?

"He's coming along fine, like most rookies are. He's in the struggles of learning what to do. The first step in a rookie's got to learn what to do to where he can actually tell you what he's supposed to do. And then he's got to be able to show you he knows how to do it. And then he's got to be able to make the adjustments on the run that come within those different assignments and techniques. And right now, I think he knows what to do. He doesn't always know how to do it. And he doesn't always know the proper adjustments. And I think you make a mistake to evaluate any rookie at this point. They're all learning right now. This is the learning stage of how to play. And the true evaluation won't come until the middle of training camp and into the preseason games."

When you have a guy like S Craig Dahl back there, can you do more defensively because of his abilities to make calls and to make last-minute adjustments?

"Compared to what we've done in the past?"

Well, compared to a guy if Reid was the starter?

"Possibly. But, I think one of Eric's strong points will be his mental capabilities, and I think he'll get it. And what happens with a lot of guys like that, the light just kind of comes on one day and it all starts. Right now it's just the screen is blurry a lot of times. And then one day that TV screen will be fixed and it'll be like a new HD. So, it will just happen at some point."

How are S Darcel McBath and S C.J. Spillman at in that competition as well?

"They're doing fine. What we've done up to this point all through OTAs and through this mini-camp, is Spillman and Dahl have been alternating who works with the first group. And then tomorrow's practice, Reid will get to work with the first group. So, there's nobody set right now."

When you lose two key linemen in the offseason, and then DT Justin Smith's not back and Tank's not here, does it change what you can do this mini-camp? Are you able to do what you want to do? Does it kind of set you back, for lack of a better term?

"No, because what it does do actually for the young players is it gets them more reps. Justin hadn't been taking any reps. [DT] Ray McDonald's been taking very few reps. [LB] Aldon Smith and [LB] Ahmad Brooks haven't taken any because of their injuries. So, it does give the younger guys a lot more opportunity to improve. And it doesn't set us back. At this stage we just keep calling as if they're in there."

Did Ahmad have surgery on his shoulder?

"He had an issue with his shoulder that he had to get corrected. And I'm not sure if it was surgical or not."

And how curious are you just to follow obviously Justin means so much to your defense, have you just been following him to see how he's come along in his rehab of that tricep?

"He's doing fine. Justin's one of those guys you don't have to follow."

Will you talk with senior offensive consultant Eric Mangini at all? I know he's more on the offensive side. But, will you talk to him about some ideas on defense at all?

"We haven't to this point. And right now he's knee-deep into the offensive side trying to learn our offense and etc. So, it's nothing that's been planned that that would happen. But, just sitting around the table eating lunch or something one day you might have a conversation. But, that's not the intent."

What's your early assessment of the guy from Britain, DL Lawrence Okoye?

"Well, he's like all these rookies here expect he's never played football before. So, magnify it to that degree. So, he's got a lot to learn. Not just learn, guys play peewee football, high school football, college football for a reason. And he hasn't. So, he'll have a lot to learn. But, I don't think we'll get a true picture of him for a while."

Do you enjoy that kind of project?

"Yeah, just as long as if he's not still a project when if we're forced to play him."

When you look at him, do you see the vast potential?

"You see some potential, yes. But, still it's a game that you have to know how to play. And it's going to be a matter of how quickly he learns how to play. He hasn't had anybody hit him yet. He hasn't had a double team yet. He hasn't figured out if it's a run or pass whether he should rush, or play the run. So, it'll probably be a very slow process with him much more than a normal rookie."

He's tall and he's got such long legs, is that going to be, you think that's going to be his major obstacle, is learning leverage and trying to make sure that offensive linemen aren't getting lower than him?

"That will be an issue for him. Like you like to say with the tall guys, use the height as an advantage not a disadvantage. So, they have to learn to bend their knees when they need to. But, it's a good point because if you did some research over the years, and I'm talking years, there aren't very many successful defensive front players that are over 6'6" or 6'5". Just it's a little harder."

How much did you change the defense during the offseason before coming into these OTAs and mini-camps?

"Not much at all. Every year you tweak here and there and add a little something here and there. And we've done that. But, nothing major."

Is it nice to get LB Parys Haralson back? It seems like he's eager to be out there after missing the whole last season?

"Yeah, Parys missed playing last year and we missed him. And it's nice to have him back out there. He's a guy that everybody likes playing with and competing with because he's a competitor. And we're hoping he can come back to the form that he was showing when he played in 2011."

Why hasn't CB Carlos Rogers been practicing?

"He's got a physical issue that he's dealing with, and just being precautionary with him right now."

Does that help in the sense of pushing the young guys to the forefront?

"It does. It forces you to play other guys at corner, play other guys at nickel. Those guys would have been anyway. But, that's just they're getting his reps that he would have got. They're getting more reps to learn. So, it's actually helpful to the younger guys and the backups."

Do you envision Rogers as your nickel guy?

"Yeah, right now I do. Yes."

Do you expect him to be healthy by training camp?

"Yes."

And Brooks as well?

"Yes."

Any of the new faces or rookies make a particularly strong impression on you in particular?

"No, not really. Again, because some of them aren't even participating, and some of them are going through that process of learning. I try hard not to even make an evaluation. Or, obviously I notice something really good or notice something really bad. But, just try to hold myself back from evaluating anybody. And really what I'm more interested in in this camp is last year's rookies more so than this year's rookies. Because those guys, and we had the fifth, sixth and seventh round pick in 2012, which were defensive guys in [LB Darius] Fleming, [LB Cam] Johnson and [S Trenton] Robinson. And I'm more interested really to see where they're at because they should be really a lot farther along having been here now for a full year. And all three of them are. I'm pleased to see that. And I'm sure our offensive coaches are eager to see what the first four picks from that draft are looking like because we didn't get a lot from any of them. So, now's the second year where you can really start to evaluate a draft class. So, I'm really more interested right now in seeing where those guys are."

So, of those three guys, any particular thing they're doing to stand out?

"They're all a whole lot better than they were last year. Cam Johnson is a very viable candidate to make this team right now. Trenton is, too. And Darius Fleming was doing very good work at inside linebacker, which we switched him to at the start of OTAs. And he was doing very good work there until he got a little injured there. So, been pleased with those three guys. Feel a lot stronger about them now than I did last year at this time."

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