Vic Fangio has been coaching in the NFL long before the days of free agency and is well-versed on what it takes to be a successful linebacker in the professional ranks. In the late 80s and early 90s, Fangio benefitted from working with the same set of linebackers for seven straight seasons during his time with the New Orleans Saints.
The consistency developed by those Saints defenses were seldom seen in league history as four of his Saints linebackers were once named to the Pro Bowl in the same season.
These days, however, it appears as if Fangio might be experiencing flashbacks of his days working with “The Dome Patrol,” the moniker given to his dominant linebacking crew.
While Fangio is in the midst of his first offseason working on the field in OTAs and minicamps with 49ers players, he’s doing it largely with the same personnel he had in 2011.
So how does the 49ers coordinator react to having all 11 defensive starters from one of the league’s top defensive units back for 2012?
“We should be as good or better,” Fangio said on Wednesday.
Fangio also has similar expectations for last season’s first-round pick, outside linebacker Aldon Smith.
“We expect him to become more of a full-time player this year,” Fangio said.
The defensive coordinator estimated that last year’s No. 7 overall pick, who broke the franchise rookie record with 14.0 sacks in the regular season, would be counted on to be more of a full-time player this coming season.
“Last year, the season worked out for him, basically the way I envisioned it,” Fangio said of the 49ers rookie who registered 44 tackles in 16 regular season contests. “He got to play in our sub packages, which I think he played about 52 percent of the time over the 18 games that we played, and did a good job.”
Smith made the most of in-season practice reps at outside linebacker. In doing so, the former University of Missouri product picked up valuable experience spelling last year’s starters Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson.
But before Smith can take on an every-down role this coming season, Fangio wants to see Haralson-like production from Smith against the run.
“He’s got to be as good if not better than Parys was playing the run,” Fangio explained.
In addition, the defensive coordinator who coaches the outside linebackers during individual practice periods, wants to see Smith continue to master zone coverage skills as well as increase his understanding of the routes being run against him.
In Smith’s mind, progressing in both his rush defense and coverage skills has been a positive development.
“We still have the same mentality that we’re hungry and we’re working hard every day to get better,” Smith explained. “Hopefully my stats will increase because I’m in a lot more.”
That doesn’t mean Smith is getting over confident.
“As long as we keep getting better, the sky is the limit for us,” Smith said. “We have a lot of guys who work hard and do their jobs near to perfection.”
Tags: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Parys Haralson, Vic Fangio
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