Versatile defense does not short-change itself

Versatile defense does not short-change itself
September 12, 2012, 1:28 pm
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Vic Fangio mixed up a dizzying array of packages for the 49ers defense to use against Aaron Rodgers, the league's reigning MVP. They worked."It was really good," said cornerback Carlos Rogers about his defensive coordinator's game plan. "I played with some good coordinators and I think he's one of the best, if not the best."Everything we see out there on Sunday, we see during the week. He did a good job of preparing us. Most importantly, that scout team did a good job of giving us some looks that Green Bay was going to do, and it made it much easier out there on Sunday."Rogers and his teammates got their first look at Fangio's plan for Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions on Tuesday afternoon, and expect to see more of what they did at Lambeau Field."Yeah, especially when they like to spread it out and they have big-time receiving threats," safety Donte Whitner said. "We have multiple DB's that we can bring out on the football field. Whichever package coach wants to use this week, the matchups that he likes, he'll choose to do that."But please excuse Whitner, Rogers and the rest of the 49ers secondary if they can't remember exactly all of the different alignments they are in. The 49ers were in their base defense for only a handful of the 72 snaps they had against the Packers, causing Rogers to laugh as he tried to recall who was in on what situation.But here are the basic packages:Nickel -- The 49ers use two safeties and three corners in their nickel (five defensive backs) with Rogers moving to the nickel back position to cover the slot receiver. Chris Culliver comes into the game at cornerback, with nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga departing. Ray McDonald and Justin Smith are the tackles on the four-man line, with outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith shifting to defensive end positions. Tramaine Brock began last season as the third cornerback, but Culliver never gave up that job after Brock missed several games after undergoing early season hand surgery. Now, Brock is the team's fifth cornerback.
Dime -- This is a defense that includes the same four defensive linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs. The opposition typically has four wideouts on the field when the 49ers employ this defense. The only difference from the nickel is a fourth cornerback, Perrish Cox, enters the game with either inside linebacker, Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman, going out of the game. On Sunday, it was mostly Willis who exited when Cox entered the game in this package. In this defense, Cox plays a quasi-linebacker position. He is on the field because he has a better chance of matching up against a wide receiver. The one remaining linebacker spot is more similar to Bowman's normal position, Fangio said.Dollar -- Designed mainly for third-and-long situations, this personnel package includes only three defensive linemen (Justin Smith, McDonald and Aldon Smith), inside linebackers Willis and Bowman, and the same six defensive backs from the "dime" defense. Fangio brought in a third safety in the "dime" and "dollar" packages last season and had Whitner move down. This season, the 49ers are going with two safeties and four corners to comprise the six defensive backs.With so many moving parts the communication is almost nonstop to ensure every player knows what his responsibility is."The whole back end, the safeties all the rest of us corners, we're all talking," Cox said. "Basically all of us have to come together and just talk it up."The secondary's performance at Green Bay is a good indication they're saying the right things."Just the poise that we showed out there on the football field," Whitner said. "When you play quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, they want to get to the line of scrimmage early. They want to get early looks, play around to make you show the coverage and we didn't do that against the Green Bay Packers. So it's a step better than we were last year."AP and US Presswire images

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