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Vic Fangio talks Patrick Willis wrist, covering Shady and Sproles, pressure packages

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media Thursday afternoon. He discussed Patrick Willis's wrist, the issues with covering LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, the Eagles high tempo offense, and the 49ers use of blitzing. We have a transcript.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers face off against a potent Philadelphia Eagles offense in Week 4. It's safe to say the 49ers defense is going to face quite a workout on Sunday. The Eagles run a high-tempo offense unmatched in the NFL. Vic Fangio had a chance to discuss that, among other things in his Thursday press conference.

He also updated Patrick Willis's status. The 49ers linebacker has a wrist issue, but he was back at practice on Thursday, and Fangio does not think it will be a problem.

LB Patrick Willis missed practice yesterday. How serious is his wrist injury and what's his status for Sunday?

"I think his status is fine. He just aggravated his wrist there a little bit. I don't think it'll be a problem."

Is that part of his body more of a concern given his history of hand injuries and whatnot?

"I think it always is when you first hear that he's hurt his wrist/hand area. But, I don't think it's a problem this time. I don't think it will be a long-range problem, hopefully."

How much of a challenge do he and LB Michael Wilhoite have in terms of covering Eagles RBs Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy out of the backfield this week?

"They have a huge challenge covering those guys out of the backfield. They've got a huge challenge tackling those guys, too, when they hand the ball off to them. It'll be a challenge for our entire defense. Those are two very explosive, elusive players that give them two home run hitters coming out of the backfield which just adds to their offense."

It seems like their skillsets are very hard to replicate. How do you go about doing that in practice and in the film room?

"We've had [WR Bruce] Ellington play Sproles, which is about as close as we can get to that. So, that's a good look."

You blitzed a little bit more than, I guess, is typical last week. Was that a game plan specific thing or was that just trying to get a little bit more pressure?

"Both. It was both."

How do you think that went, the blitzing?

"It went OK sometimes. Sometimes it wasn't. We had some good plays that got wiped out by penalties and they completed a couple, a ball or two on them, too."

Is it to be expected that a team that doesn't blitz a lot wouldn't be great at it when the first time you start trying to do it in a game?

"No, I wouldn't say that because most of the ones we used in that game we've been doing for a long time and practice them every week. Just haven't had the case to call them as often in the games."

This may be a question that you might not want to answer necessarily. But, you've got a wide arsenal in your history of pressure packages. Do you think about dusting some of that stuff off?

"Always. You always think about that. You can't play good pass defense in this league without good pass rush. And they go hand in hand. You can't have good pass rush without good coverage. So, we've had to call on it a little bit more lately here, last week. Hope to not have to play that way all the time."

With that being said, what do you think has been the bigger issue when it comes to your pass defense? Has it been the pass rush or the coverage on the backend?




Do you go through practice this week with the scout team playing no huddle and getting into that rhythm and what do you tell your players to kind of get ready for a team that runs a lot of plays and has a very quick turnover between plays?

"We try and simulate the tempo as best we can in practice. We'll have the scout team do two or three plays in a row. At a time, show them two or three cards and get them to run them as fast as they can. We'll also hold the calls, even though we may be ready to go on defense and practice, we won't let our defensive players know what call we're in until very, very late, trying to simulate how it will be during the game."

These guys get into a routine. After a play they might adjust their pads or do something. Do you try to get them to change their routine?

"Yes. That's the first we said to them during the week is your normal routine in-between plays is altered in this game. Just from talking to the guy next to you about what just happened in that play, hey look for this the next time. Everything that players talk to each other about in-between plays has to be limited in this type of game."

Including celebrations?


Is it almost a disadvantage to be playing at home when you're facing a team like that because, theoretically, there should be more crowd noise when you're on the field?

"It could be. But, I don't think it will be. It also affects them a little bit because they have communication to do too at the line."

There's been a lot of, I'm sure, much deserved hype about Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and the stuff he's doing. Beyond the hurry up stuff, what are some of the things that they do offensively that, I guess, you could term unique?

"They have an offense that he and their coaches and players believe in. It's sound. I think the no-huddle kind of camouflages from most people how good their offense is even without the no-huddle. They have a solid running game. It's a very simple running game, but yet very effective. They give you a lot of different formations. They're capable of using unbalanced line. Throw the wide receiver screens a good bit. They're handing the ball off to really good running backs. They've got good receivers. And their passing game, they have a few concepts that they use and repeat and they're good at it. So, I think they have a good offense even without the no-huddle."

Going back to the coverage, how much of the coverage issues have been physical and how much have been mental? Blown coverages for instance?

"There haven't been many of those."

Were the two TDs blown coverages?

"Yes. That's two."

Two pretty important ones.

"They are."

Was it the same mistake being made?


Can you explain what was happening?

"One time we just didn't pick up the route correctly from one player's position and the other time we didn't stay deep enough long enough."

Where do things stand with DT Tank Carradine and as far as him picking up the defense and knowing his assignments?

"He's improving along those lines, he really is."

Why not a bigger role on Sundays then?

"When you dress five or six, and we've had the luxury of six here the last two weeks because we're short on DBs, special teams factors in, versatility factors in, how will they play in the base and the nickel. So, right now, factoring all of those things in, he hadn't been one of those, last week wasn't one of those six."

Is it just the grasp of the defense that is holding him back?

"No, I wouldn't say that totally."

What are you guys getting out of DT Ray McDonald through three games?

"Ray's playing good. He's done a good job versus the run. I'm sure his play has been affected somewhat with the burden on his mind. But, I think he's played well enough in spite of everything."