Editor's note: 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio spoke to the media on Thursday from Santa Clara. Below is a full transcript of his comments.
What went into the decision to play LB Aaron Lynch so much more? And how do you use him? Is it similarly to the way you use LB Aldon Smith? Is it a little different?
“Well, the decision was, he had been playing a lot in the first three games anyway. And this game, that pass game was going to be harder to roll guys because of the no huddle. And we just decided to go with him as the guy in the sub packages. And the second part was, similar to Aldon? You mean when Aldon was a rookie?”
A rookie, but even now. Is it that same position or is it a little different?
“No, he’s basically playing the left end in our sub packages.”
And LB Ahmad Brooks goes to the other side?
Why is that? Just generally.
“Aaron’s had most of his work on the left side since he’s been here. Feels a little more comfortable there right now. And Ahmad’s interchangeable, so it makes sense.”
How has he just improved so fast, Aaron Lynch we’re talking about, just this last week?
Well, that’s obvious.
“Well he’s got talent, obviously. Like I said back in training camp, he came here in the offseason after the draft and was doing fine. Then had the hamstring issue, which ended his offseason work, I don’t know, 10 days early. That lingered into training camp. It also inhibited his period of time between OTA’s and training camp. He really couldn’t work out. He was rehabbing. Those are different. So, he was behind the eight ball in training camp up until Week 2 or Week 3. Didn’t want to play him in the first preseason game because I didn’t feel he was ready from a coaching standpoint and from a repetition and feeling comfortable. Wanted him to get a good, solid two weeks of practice before we put him into a game, which we did in Game 2. And he played well in preseason games for the most part, made some plays, and he’s continued to improve from there. And he’s gotten in better shape, which he got out of shape due to the hamstring issue.”
What’s an ideal weight for him?
“I’m not sure yet. Definitely not what he was after the rehab process. And he’s down into the 260’s now, the low 260’s, and I think that’s probably a good weight for him. We’ll see as we get to know him more.”
You got to see a lot of Chiefs QB Alex Smith when he was here, but just watching him now on film, how does he fit just that offense so well? How is it built around him that has maybe improved his strengths even more?
“Well, it’s a very complex offense. They do a lot of different things from a lot of different personnel groups. They have a lot of different formations. And Alex is a quarterback that can handle all of that from a mental standpoint and choreograph it and orchestrate it for them on the field. They do a lot of things out of all those different packages that suit his game. They throw a lot of quick passes, which is the so-called West Coast style. They’re running the gun-read option, which Alex can do, as he did here and did in college. So, that fits him. They’ve got a nice little boot game with them, which Alex can do. Alex is a very athletic and fast quarterback that sometimes people forget about, but it stands out when people watch the tape. And he’s a good scrambler. So, I think the offense is operating at a high level for them coming off that game on Monday night, and he played really well.”
Someone was saying that nobody knows him better than head coach Jim Harbaugh. Have you discussed with Jim or gone to Jim and kind of picked his brain of what’s his weakness that we can exploit, or what’s his strengths that we need to really pay attention to?
“I have not. Have not.”
“I was here, too, for that time.”
But you didn’t study him, did you?
“No, but sometimes too much study is paralysis by over-analysis. I watched the tape and prepared for him just like any other quarterback. And I saw him play all those games and in practice. So, whatever I would ask him or answer I was looking for, I already had an opinion in my own mind.”
He’s second to QB Colin Kaepernick in rushing yards by a quarterback. How much of that has come on designed plays versus just scrambling?
“Just much like with Colin, it’s both. I can’t give you an exact percentage, but they have design running plays for him, or the design option, where he can hand it off or keep it, which he’s done. And obviously he’s gotten his scrambling yards. So, it’s both.”
How have you seen S Eric Reid grow in a year’s time and also maybe his role taking DB Jimmie Ward under his wing as a second-year pro? Do you forget that this guy’s a second-year pro?
“Well, he’s grown. He’s learning the game more and more every day, learning our package more and more every day. He had a good season last year. Got to play 19 games, three of them playoff games, which is your ultimate learning experience. He’s just continued to progress.”
When Alex Smith was drafted nine years ago, the first pick, everybody in the Bay Area – just general – was feeling they wanted Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers just because he was the University of California-Berkley kid and he did so well. And former 49ers head coach and current Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s argument was this guy was a better “athlete”, and he talked about rolling balls and sticks at him and he could avoid all this stuff. Used agile, very agile and evasive. Do you see that? And do you think years later that it makes sense? Or would you go after a QB with an arm?
“Man, that was a long question. Obviously, Alex is a good athlete. And he’s highly intelligent. And he’s a good quarterback. The rest of it I really don’t know.”
Talking to LB Patrick Willis and Alex, they said the time they were together they really sharpened each other just because they would have competitions on the field, off the field, all the time. Do you remember any of those? Were there any that stick out from training camp or 7-on-7 where Alex and Patrick were going back and forth?
“No more, no less than you get from any other team when you spend all off-season, all training camp working against each other. It’s good, fun competition.”
How much of Kansas City Chiefs receiver A.J. Jenkins do you expect to see on Sunday?
“Probably a fair amount. [Kansas City receiver Donnie] Avery’s not going to play for them, supposedly, so, that’s one of their full-time receivers that will not play and it kicks up the reps for the receivers that are behind him and that includes A.J. A.J.’s been getting reps anyway, so, I would suppose we’d see him more.”
When CB Tramaine Brock is ready to come back, what happens to CB Perrish Cox?
“We’ll figure that out then.”
Has his play merited a way for you to figure out how he stays on the field somehow?
“He definitely has played well. And his play has merited playing. That’ll be a good problem to have and we’ll solve it.”
Do you see Jimmie Ward continuing to elevate his game, game-to-game?
“Up to this point or going forward?”
Up to this point and then what that translates to?
“He’s the type of guy that’s going to improve. He’s smart, he’s diligent and he’s prideful. And he’s competitive, so, when you have those qualities you’re going to improve. And he’ll continue to improve going forward.”
Do you approach Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles the similar way as you do Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy?
“A little bit. He’s much faster than McCoy. He might be the fastest back in the league. He’ll run it downhill a little bit more. This is a physical running game. The most physical running game we’ve seen lately, probably since the Dallas game. We’ll see. But he’s an excellent back with breakaway speed as is his backup, [Kansas City Chiefs RB Niles] Davis.”
To the, I guess, uneducated eye, LB Ahmad Brooks has not been quite as impactful as he’s been in previous seasons. Perhaps it’s not a correlation, but you said he wasn’t in great shape before the season. Is there something to that? Is he still working his way back into shape? Is that part of, if you agree, he has not been quite as impactful?
“He played better last week and I do think he’s working his way back to being in tip-top shape. It wasn’t so much the shape part of it. He just got overweight. He was here all offseason. He wasn’t like he skipped workouts and things like that. He worked out. He just got a little too heavy.”
S Antoine Bethea was able to pick up the Eagles tell on when they were going to go to runs. How commonplace is that and are there tendencies with Alex Smith that you guys have spotted already?
“No. Not much with Alex. It’s not really common. I think what happened with Antoine on that one particular play you’re alluding to, I think it happened earlier in the game and happened again and he was on it.”
Because Aaron Lynch, you mentioned keeping him in there because of the no-huddle, is that kind of his spot now or will LB Corey Lemonier get some of those reps?
“He’ll be back. He’ll be there. He’ll be the left guy in our sub-packages. Yes.”
How has NT Ian Williams played?
“Good. Had a nice game last week. Gave us some good pressure, played the run good and played good.”
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