San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media Tuesday after practice, and he was less than pleased with the team's work. He talked about some mental and physical miscues that cost the team some deep balls.
His most interesting comments were about some of the rookies. He went into a lot of detail about Dontae Johnson, Chris Borland, and Jimmie Ward. He talked about the developmental process for all three, and was pretty straight forward with some of the areas where they need to improve. He was probably the most positive about Ward, but as is often the case with Fangio, he was not doling out a ton of compliments.
What did you like from what you saw out at practice?
"Not as much as I had been seeing. We messed up too many things today, I think, and I need to go look at it and see exactly what it was. A couple of them, I'm not sure what it was. But, we had some critical offside penalties. Gave up a deep ball that was, I think, related to the front more than secondary. And got to go take a look at it."
Was that because you're missing a few normal guys that would be out there in your starting unit? You didn't have CB Tramaine Brock, or CB Chris Culliver, or DT Ray McDonald or DT Justin Smith?
"It shouldn't be. No, basically what I'm talking about had no relevance to those guys not being there."
The deep ball, are you talking about the one that WR Michael Crabtree I think the slot corner blitzed on that play? Was he, was DB Jimmie Ward, was that his responsibility?
"Yeah. To blitz?"
Well, no, was he on Crabtree on that?
"No, he wasn't on him there."
Are Culliver and Brock's injuries, would you call that serious?
"I don't think so. No, just little nicks that in their leg area that they're giving them a day or two rest it's going to take to get better."
Is Justin kind of having vet days off? Or is that still kind of related to his shoulder? Or a little of both?
"I think it's more of a little of both and eventually he'll get back out there."
Why is Ray McDonald, why hasn't he been active?
"He's got a little leg injury that he's nursing. So, just being prudent with it right now that he doesn't aggravate it and make it worse."
What have you seen out of rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson and how he's playing? He looked pretty tight, pretty big.
"He looked a little tight?"
No, like he was playing tight coverage pretty good.
"He's doing fine. Like a lot of rookies, he's got a little tentativeness in his play right now, not always sure exactly what to do. But, I think he'll get there. He's got good size. We feel he's got good enough speed. Just keep waiting for him to feel the urgency and really turn it up. And I don't think he's quite there yet. I think he's still feeling his way through knowing what to do, the NFL game, etc. But, hopefully he'll kick it up a notch here in the next three weeks at some point."
Do any of those elements apply to Jimmie Ward? His tentativeness until he gets the hang of it?
"No, it does, but not quite as much."
CB Chris Cook had an interception today.
"Yeah, he had a nice interception. Went up and caught the ball at the high point there and made a nice catch."
You see he's been working on that obviously, interceptions are an issue over his career. Do you see progress in locating the ball, turning his head, that sort of thing?
"I think so. That was a nice play by him today. The receiver did not go up and compete with him. I don't think the receiver thought the ball was being thrown to him. So, it ended up being a little bit easier play than maybe normal. But, the fact remains that he did go up and get it, and caught it and that's always a good thing."
How much have you worked on his ball skills?
"A lot. [Secondary coach] Ed [Donatell] and [assistant secondary coach] Greg [Jackson] have worked with him a lot in that area in individual drills and trying to create game-like situations as much as you can in an individual period. We've asked the quarterbacks to throw to him. So, I think they've done most of everything they can to help him along, and they'll continue to."
The last few years, you've had guys that have played together for a while. With all the new pieces, I know they're working on the communication and chemistry. Where are you in that process? And how realistic to expect it by Week One that they'll be clicking that way?
"I think it's realistic. The guys that you're alluding to, [S] Antoine Bethea, is a very smart player. He's picking up our system nicely. I think by then he'll be seamlessly in there. Culliver and Brock have both played a lot of football around here. They should be in there seamlessly at some point. We're still looking to figure out our inside linebacker position to replace [LB] NaVorro [Bowman] while he's out. That one may be a little slower coming along than the other ones in comparison. So, I think we'll be there."
Another on the rookie tentativeness, is LB Chris Borland in that same category, or is he [inaudible]?
"No, he's not being tentative. He's kind of being over, not sure what he's seeing all the time. He's got really good instincts. And sometimes he thinks his instincts are taking him to a play and he's aborting his own assignment, and he's gotten burnt on that a few times. So, he's got to learn that the quarterbacks in this league can be looking here and quickly come back here. And, he's been burnt on that few times."
How do you deal with that? You obviously want a guy like that who has good instincts, you want him to trust those, but?
"Yeah, he's got to learn the line is tighter in the NFL to be instinctive and abort your assignment, go make a play, than to stay with your assignments. And that just comes through repetitions and playing, and going against quality offenses, quality quarterbacks."
What about another inside LB Nick Moody, how does he look this year versus his rookie year a year ago?
"Well, he's looked a whole lot better than he did as a rookie, just from an assignments standpoint. But, he's still got to fight to be more consistent. He's got to get the inconsistency out of his play."
Do you see his background as a safety in his play? Is he ahead of the other guys in terms of covering a tight end, or a receiver, or a running back?
"No, I don't think his background as a safety really helps him a whole lot because he's lining up as a linebacker all the time, so that's totally different. I don't see there being a lot of carryover there."
Do you have plans for Jimmie, obviously he covers the slot, big place for the safety as well, sort of what you did with LB Aldon Smith in his rookie year and just bring him in in certain situations get him used to maybe just covering the slot receiver in this league and then bring him in at safety when you need him?
"Yeah, that's a possibility. We hope he gets to that point. If you remember when Aldon was a rookie, and Aldon that year was the year of the lockout, so he had no offseason work. He didn't really earn his spot in the nickel package until after the last preseason game. And it'd be great for Jimmie to earn a spot in the nickel package."