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Vic Fangio talks Washington ground game, defensive line, secondary and more

49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media on Friday, and discussed a host of topics related to the defense. It's worth noting he spoke prior to the 49ers announced Tramaine Brock's contract extension.


Can you talk about the challenges the Redskins rushing attack poses?

"Many. They have an excellent running game. Both, they have the standard running game that they've always run in their offense with [Redskins head coach] Mike [Shanahan] being there. They've got the zone scheme which they do a really good job running. They've run it forever and do a great job of running. And then they mix in their pistol attack where there's some option game involved and they do a good job with that with [Redskins QB Robert] Griffin. There's a lot of carryover to their option game running game to their regular running game from the O-line's perspective. So, it's pretty easy for them to do both. There's a lot there. You've got a running quarterback who can keep it. You've got a really good running back in [Redskins RB Alfred] Morris, who has gotten a lot of yards in the year and a half that he's been in the league. They do a really good job with it."

Are they similar to Seattle, what Seattle runs with their rushing?

"When the quarterback's under center there is some similarities, yes."

How often is he under center?

"He's under center first and second down maybe 30-35 percent of the time."

How did CB Eric Wright play in that first game last week?

"He did OK. He was rushed into action there. I thought he did well for considering the circumstances. But, I also feel like he's capable of a lot better and hopefully we'll see that this week."

He didn't practice any outside last week?

"He practiced some. But, he was mainly practicing at nickel last week in case he had to back up there because there's much more to learn going in there than there is at corner."

For CB Tramaine Brock, does it change it at all? He's been playing a lot, but just the fact that he's a starter now, is that a change for a young guy getting that start?

"I think the change comes in that he went from not playing to being in the nickel, which is a part-time job where you're in and out and you usually get a break of at least two or three plays or longer depending on the game you're in. And now the change comes, it's amped up another level, he's in there every play. He's just got to be ready to play every play not knowing he's got built in breaks when we're in base like he had for the first however many games he was playing. There is a change, but it's just got to be a mental adjustment for him."

You guys have done well at getting turnovers this year and you've talked about emphasizing it. When you do emphasize it, do you watch the film and look for opportunities each week, different chances to jump on specific routes or specific reads? Or is it just something where you just tell your guys to be opportunistic and rip the ball out when it's there?

"It's more so just being aggressive. Be opportunistic. Be in the right place at the right time. Give yourself as many opportunities as you can. You've just got to be very persistent at it. If you get 30-35 takeaways in the season, and you're going to play over 1,000 plays in a season, that doesn't sound like a whole lot. But, it does emphasize how you have to be persistent because those opportunities aren't always there."

On the other side of that, when your offense turns the ball over, it seems points off turnovers are a good indicator and teams generally score more off of turnovers. Defensively, what's different about that, aside from the obvious change of field position?

"Really not a lot. Like we said early on, we have no control on how we get on the field. The only thing we can control is how we get off the field. Whether they have driven the ball from their own 20 to our 20, or whether they've gotten a takeaway and started a drive on the 20, really shouldn't make much difference to us. We've got to go out there and play. In fact, it should be somewhat, I hate to use the word advantage when you're going out there after a takeaway, but you haven't played the five, six, seven, eight plays you may have played on a long drive when you're down there, when they've taken over in normal field position. So, you've got to just go out there and answer the bell. There's some psychological to it where you're feeling down as a team, they're feeling up because of what just happened. But, we've got to go out there and put out the fire."

How much of a toll did it take on LB Aldon Smith running in and out of the game constantly against the Saints with that rotation?

"I don't know. I don't think it takes as much a toll as playing a play., particularly when the ball's in-between the 30s. It's right there. He's always on the outside edge of the defense. So, he's basically running from the hash mark to the sideline and wasn't full speed. I think that's overdone."

Will you do the same rotation with him this week or is he going to get more in that fulltime role like he was at the start of the year?

"It might be a little bit of both. He played a lot last week. He probably played double the snaps that [LB] Dan [Skuta] played last week. Kind of see it the same way to a degree, but he'll be in there."

Can you tell from a conditioning standpoint if he's kind of all the way back?

"I don't know if he's all the way back. One thing he had, he was sick prior to the game on Sunday and was struggling with a cold and some congestion. And the medicine he was on made him kind of sick before the game. I think it was more that than his physical conditioning."

He had that role as the rookie, the nickel guy, but is he more effective playing the whole game where he can be out there every snap and setting up the guy across from him and all the things that go with that?

"Yeah. I think anytime you have a guy like that, the more you can play the better and get a feel for the game. You have to be conscious if you're getting a lot of longer drives and a lot of passes where the fatigue sets in to get him a blow. We feel fortunate to have Dan or [LB] Corey [Lemonier] to go in there and sub him if that starts happening."

Last week you unveiled that new, that pass rush with Corey in and LB Ahmad Brooks and Aldon and DT Justin Smith. What is that? I don't think you did that too often, but what did that give you, you haven't run that combination of those four guys?

"Well, Aldon's got the ability to rush from the inside, so it allows us to put him inside as a defensive tackle, which is where he played a lot in college, and put Corey and Ahmad outside and obviously keeping Justin in there. Sometimes it's a good change up, particularly when we're down a D-lineman that we don't have to wear out [TE/DT Demarcus] Dobbs, [DT Tony] Jerod-Eddie and [DL Glenn] Dorsey. It gives us a chance to utilize the personnel a little bit more to protect where we're short guys."

Are you going to be short DT Ray McDonald this week?

"I think he's much, much improved to where he was last week at this time. But, he's still pretty iffy."

You've had so much continuity in the secondary this year even after losing S Dashon Goldson, but when a starting corner goes down, does that affect continuity a little bit more?

"It can to a degree. It all depends upon how comfortable that guy is in your system. Whereas, when Tramaine started playing, Tramaine's been here for three years. So, he knows the system. Eric goes in there and hadn't hardly been here and hadn't practiced a whole lot. It's not as comfortable. So, I think it depends upon who goes in and what their background is in your defense and playing with the guys around them."

Can you tell, obviously Griffin came off of the knee surgery, can you tell that he has become increasingly explosive this year as the season's gone on?

"Yes, he has. It would have been much better to have played these guys earlier in the season than now. He's, this is game 11 and he's 11-weeks improved than he was in their opener earlier in the season. So, he's getting more and more confident with his knee."

Washington's one of the few teams in the NFL, maybe one of the only teams in the league that doesn't really have that drop back element with Griffin in their offense. Does that change anything with the way you can guard in the secondary? Do you actually, literally inch up a little bit closer when you're playing an offense like that?

"Well, that's what their first and second down offense is based on. They want to run the ball, run the ball and marry their first and second down play-action game to their running game, which they do a great job of, trying to get you to inch up, inch up and crowd the line for the running game and try to hit a big play in the passing game. So, that's what they want you to do. Sometimes you're forced to do it. You hope you don't have to do it too much."

When CB Carlos Rogers came here, when you guys came here, did you anticipate him taking on the leadership role he's kind of assumed?

"I don't know that I can say I anticipated it, not having any prior relationship with Carlos. But, it was fairly obvious by the middle of his first year here, that he was a very heady player, a very prideful player, very diligent player. And that's continued to date. I think he is a good example for all our DBs. He works extremely hard in the meeting room, on the practice field, plays the game from the shoulders up with his head. He's a great example for all young players."

What makes Alfred Morris so effective?

"They do a great job running the ball with their scheme. He does a great job of once he hits it, then he hits it good and hard and strong. He's got good size. He's got deceiving strength. Deceiving speed. He can cut it. The guy's a pretty good fit for their offense."

You have more, a couple more weeks of practice with DT Tank Carradine. What are your impressions now on Tank?

"He's still working hard to get into football shape, get over his injury, get acclimated to our system."