Over the course of a game week the 49ers make a different member of the coaching staff available to the media each day. Yesterday, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio took some time to discuss this weekend's contest with Seattle and provide a much needed update on the defensive depth chart.
According to Fangio, Shawntae Spencer remains in the mix for the starting cornerback position but as would be expected given his injury, the chances of him starting this weekend are not good. Tarell Brown is ahead of him on the depth chart and appears to be starting opposite Carlos Rogers at this point. Spencer has been getting back on the practice field and it will be interesting to see if he is able to battle back to re-claim his starting corner position from Brown. Neither has managed a sustained record of consistent success so it could be anybody's game.
We also still don't have an answer at the free safety position. Dashon Goldson missed practice last week but is still listed as the starting free safety alongside Donte Whitner at strong safety. Later today we'll get the first practice participation report of the week. The final injury report is issued on Friday and is preceded by practice participation reports on Wednesday and Thursday. Goldson will be one name to pay close attention to for practice participation.
Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio
Press Conference - September 6, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
What kind of role do you foresee for LB Tavares Gooden?
"When you're selecting back-up linebackers, a major part of that process is the equation of special teams. We felt he would be an upgrade in the special teams for us as a backup linebacker, and he'll also be a backup inside linebacker for us."
What's your background with Gooden? You coached him in 2009, that seems to be his best year in Baltimore. What did you see from him during that season?
"Well he's a good athlete, he can run very well. He's been a good special teams player throughout his career and I think he just improves our overall speed. Again, he has an ability to cover kicks and block on kick returns."
So you're comfortable with upgrading on special teams, but are you comfortable with having just three outside linebackers?
"Not comfortable with three outside linebackers, but we felt it was worth the gamble to upgrade our special teams over the insurance of having a fourth outside linebacker."
Would LB Larry Grant be the backup at both inside linebacker spots?
"He is right now. Hopefully we can get Tavares schooled up enough that he can be the backup behind [LB Patrick] Willis, and Larry can be the backup behind [LB] NaVorro [Bowman] to be able to cut down on the learning for Larry to know. Today as we speak, Larry is the backup."
Do you ask different things of those two spots?
"It's not so much a skill set difference from what you're asked to do, but the sides are different. Larry has double the load in learning right now, and if we can take that off of him, that would be beneficial to him."
What do you make, I know it's going to be talked about all week, of Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll and 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh reuniting on the NFL sidelines?
"I don't think it's anything that big or special. The game's being played by the players. It's being played by the 49ers versus the Seahawks. Anything that's happened to them while they were coaching in the Pac-10 is secondary. That's when you're having too much time for the game and you're getting bored."
How do you envision using LB Aldon Smith early in the season?
"He'll definitely get some playing time in there. He'll be a part of our rotation outside. Exactly putting a number on that would be hard to do right now, but he'll definitely be in the rotation."
But LB Parys Haralson and LB Ahmad Brooks are your starters?
What about the other cornerback spot, opposite of CB Carlos Rogers?
"It's up in the air. [CB] Shawntae [Spencer] is supposed to start practicing today. We'll see how he feels and how he reacts to getting back out there. He hasn't done anything football-wise in over four weeks I believe. That would be a tall task for him to come back this soon and play a full game. Maybe he can come back and play parts of it, but that all remains to be seen and to be determined day-to-day as we go through this week."
As you prepare for Seattle, it's been an unusual offseason, as far as game-planning. What percent for you is the installation of new players and what percent for you is going over the basic defense so that they know terminology?
"It's all of that. Obviously when you're playing your first real opponent in a real game, things get tapered down a little bit. We're into game-planning. We've been practicing a lot of stuff. Players won't be expected to know as much this week as they were last week, if that makes any sense to you, because we were putting in a lot of stuff and just piling it on them from week to week to week and never setting in. Whereas now when you're in a game week, we'll have a shorter list of what they're expected to learn, and we'll try to zero in on what we want to play against the Seahawks."
You guys had so much time during the lockout where you didn't have your players. Did you start going over opponents at that point? How long have you been studying the Seahawks this year?
"Well, we did start going over the future opponents, but the Seahawks, because they have a new offensive staff, we didn't have the ability to watch a lot of stuff because they had changes. For us to watch the Seahawks offense, it was us looking at coaching backgrounds in different places. It wasn't as clean as we had hoped it would be."
Did you look at Minnesota film as well?
"Yes, we looked at Minnesota film. We've looked at Tom Cable who is there now as the offensive line coach, his background and his running game, what he likes to do. We looked at a lot of things really. It's kind of like you can overdo it as a coach sometimes when you're put in these situations. It wasn't clean for us like Dallas the second week, in that the offensive staff has stayed intact. There's no changes there per say that we know of going forward from this point, so we were able to really look at stuff in the offseason."
From your perspective, your side of the ball, how has WR Braylon Edwards come along in the short time he's been at this camp in terms of a matchup problem?
"I really haven't noticed a whole lot other than he can be a matchup problem because of his size and his speed. He can outsize and outmuscle a corner at times down the field, in the red-zone. He's a nice big target and hopefully he'll have a great year here for us."
Who's going to start at safety for you?
"It's yet to be determined right now. [S] Dashon [Goldson] is hurt, hasn't played or practiced last week. [S] Reggie Smith is coming back from his injury. We expect to see him back on the practice field for the first time today. It's up in the air right now."
With S Donte Whitner, when he came here the first day, he was saying he envisioned himself like an equipped Troy Polamalu role, flying around, what are his talents?
"Well, he's a versatile guy. He can cover, he can play the deep zones, he's smart. We expect him to be kind of the quarterback of our secondary, and we're very pleased to have him. He just needs to be the safety for us. He doesn't need to be the safety for somebody else."
How was Jim Harbaugh's transition from college to the pro game? Is he the same guy he was a year ago with the college kids?
"I think so pretty much, but obviously there's going to be some changes to a degree. Just from scheduling and meeting time, it's a whole lot different here than it is in college football. Particularly now when you get into a game week, you're limited to a 17-hour rule in college football. Because everybody says 20 hours, but three of the hours is the game. So, you're limited to 17 hours in college football and no more than 4 hours a day. So, he's going to have more time during each and every day here that he's not been accustomed to in college football. So, that's going to be a change and an adjustment for him, basically everything. He's the same guy."
What led you to him (Jim Harbaugh)? Why did you decide to follow him over here?
"Well, it was something we had talked about a couple years in advance even before I went to Stanford and got to know him, obviously through his brother (Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh). He did a great job at Stanford turning that program around, and I think he can do that here also. So, I chose to follow him here."
When an offense does a lot of motion, how does that complicate what you can do on defense?
"Motion? Sometimes it can complicate it and sometimes it's wasted energy by the offense and doesn't complicate anything. It kind of depends what bag you're working in on defense, but really it's not that big of deal. We assume that it can happen on every play and we know the appropriate adjustments. Many times you can create a problem for the offense too, because you may not adjust the way they think you are and now you have pieces moving and they're not quite sure. That's why teams like Indianapolis, per se, they never move because they want [QB] Peyton Manning to see the higher lined up, and they don't want him to have look and see how you're lined up after a motion. It can be a useful tool for them sometimes, but sometimes it's not."
With three outside linebackers, do you envision any of the inside linebackers playing some outside just for depth purposes?
What have you liked from CB Tarell Brown?
"He's done a good job out there in corner for us. He's competed, he's covered well in camp and in the preseason games. I think he's a smart player. He's very into football which is important. He likes football and enjoys playing and competing. I know that sounds like a standard nothing answer to you, but that's not always the case and it's refreshing. It brings confidence to his game and we have confidence in him as a coaching staff."
It seems like beyond Spencer, and maybe Rogers, Brown obviously has the most experience at the position because you've got a lot of young guys. Is that important to you to have somebody who's been there, who's played, who's started a few games, who's played in a lot of games?
"It's a plus, but it's not the overriding decision maker. We still want to put the best player out there. Experience sometimes is a part of that equation, but sometimes it's not."