After a strong first day of coverage (or perhaps just an awful day by the offense), San Francisco 49ers' Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky's defense is having a hell of a time forcing incompletions in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
There have been a few interceptions, with linebacker Jay Moore picking off a Smith offering yesterday afternoon, right before he suffered a lacerated finger on his left hand. And safeties Michael Lewis and Carlos Thomas both plucked deflected balls out of the air that were intended for tight end Vernon Davis (Alex Smith threw the first, Shaun Hill the second), but by and large, the defense has been getting strafed. The tight ends in particular are proving to be a big mismatch for the linebackers on crossing routes or quick hitters.
Then there was the bomb this morning, where Smith effortlessly hooked up with Isaac Bruce on a 45-yarder, as the longtime Ram easily split the coverage of Lewis and cornerback Nate Clements.
Manusky professed to not being at all concerned about the matter, explaining that both sides of the ball are still installing their plays and that "sometimes your installs don't mesh."
"We're not game planning their offense," he added, "We're just working on what we need to work on."
Manusky was a lot more enthused about the subject of outside linebacker Manny Lawson, now two years removed from his ACL tear. He described Lawson as an "explosive" player who looks "confident" in his repaired knee and mentioned that he will be in most, if not all, of the team's defensive packages this season.
Manusky has been stressing emphasizing pass pressure, knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage, and forcing turnovers with the defense, and obviously Lawson plays a major role in all of that.
Lawson revealed that he will be playing without a brace this year and also stated that he is looking forward to more pass rushing opportunities, which he said Manusky will give him.
Ultimately, in order for the team to come up with more turnovers, they'll need better play from their safeties, regardless of how Lawson performs.
Michael Lewis is a decent "in the box" safety, but very limited in range. Free safety Mark Roman started at free safety last season and was abysmal.
This year, the talented but far less experienced Dashon Goldson has been the first-team free safety, but Manusky cautioned that the challenge with him will be in getting Goldson to play like he practices, and usually with young players, the reverse is more difficult.
"What you do on the practice field should transfer over to the game, and sometimes he doesn't do that," Manusky said of Goldson.
Bengie Molina can block, however:
Coaching is never easy, and especially not so at this level.
You can lecture your players on technique, then yell at them, then swear at them, appeal to their pride, appeal to their manhood, and so on.
Eventually, when nothing else works, you resort to making fun of them.
Yesterday afternoon, one position coach was growing exasperated with a pair of rookies during a pass blocking drills. No matter how much instruction and feedback he gave, his guys were being easily beaten in individual matchups.
Finally, after one of his guys completely whiffed on a block, the coach pantomimed a baseball umpire and loudly bellowed, "Striiiiiike one!"
Sadly, even this failed to properly inspire the players in question and the coach followed through on strikes two and three soon after. So, it would appear that the Giants aren't the only San Francisco team that can swing and miss.
The Walking Wounded:
Everyone who's been out continues to be out.
Star inside linebacker Patrick Willis missed his second straight day with his "slight" ankle strain, and while he appears to be walking without difficulty, one has to wonder how slight it can be for him to miss two days in a row.
Moore's finger injury looked like it wasn't at all serious, but he missed the morning session.
Meanwhile, outside linebacker/Davis sparring partner Parys Haralson missed his third straight day with a sore right hip flexor and doesn't look close to returning, thereby giving Manusky and Singletary all the more opportunity to praise the pass rushing and athleticism of Brooks.
Cornerback Tarell Brown has likewise missed his third consecutive day with a sprained toe on his left foot, but it doesn't appear as though he has to rush back anytime soon, as veteran Dre' Bly hasn't made much of a case for himself just yet.
Defensive linemen Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean-Francois, recovering from offseason knee surgery and a staph infection respectively, remain on the PUP list.
They're dropping like flies here in Santa Clara.
Starting left guard David Baas was the team's first official victim of the "Nutcracker" drill, as he pulled up lame after jousting with defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell and suffered a foot strain.
Second year defensive end and 2008 first-round pick Kentwan Balmer was looking to take advantage of another veteran rest day Singletary had given to Justin Smith, but he sprained his left knee during a 9-on-7 drill and he limped off.
Running back Michael Robinson strained his groin at some point in the morning, and starting fullback Moran Norris had a sore hamstring from the beginning, so Zak Keasey got the lion's share of the fullback reps.
The prognosis wasn't given on anyone, so for now, they're all day-to-day.
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