The San Francisco 49ers are into their second day of practice this week, which means it is coordinator day in the media tent. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media and provided some updates on injuries and playing time.
When asked about Ray McDonald, Fangio said he is much improved from last week, but is still iffy to play on Monday. My guess at this point is that McDonald ends up sitting out to get him that much closer to 100 percent. The 49ers are feeling his absence, but if they can get him good to go for next week against the Rams (or the week after against the Seahawks), I think it will prove worth it in December.
Fangio also discussed Aldon Smith's status for Sunday. He'll continue getting more time, but is not quite back in that starting role. Dan Skuta has provided solid work in rotating with him, so this is not a surprise. However, the 49ers do have ways to work him into the game in different ways. One of the most notable is in what is described as the NASCAR package.
The NASCAR package provides the team a chance to include more speed with linebackers playing in down linemen roles. In this package, they can slot in Justin Smith and then a mix of linebackers to bring serious speed to the pass rush. The linebackers joining Smith can include Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Corey Lemonier, among others. It's not an every down pass rush package, but something that the team can mix in to keep defenses on their toes.
Fangio mentioned how Aldon spent a good deal of time playing defensive tackle at Missouri. Fangio looked at this as a way to also help cover for the loss of McDonald. Many would say, "Well, what about Tank Carradine?" Fangio pointed to multiple factors as to why Tank is not on the field. This included getting over the injury, getting back into in-game shape and learning the defense. Basically, he was throwing out all the reasons people have discussed in one form or another. I don't think we can know with total certainty why Tank is out, but for now we at least have a whole bunch of reasons to speculate.