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Coordinators Gear Up for Familiar Foes


Greg Roman showed up for his weekly press conference in Boardman, Ohio, with a little more scruff on his chin than usual.

Blame the New York Jets.

"If I appear unshaven I apologize," the 49ers offensive coordinator said, "but this Jets defense forces our whole staff to stay up into the wee hours of the morning. ... It's really given our offensive coaching staff a chance to bond early into the wee hours because one thing I can guarantee about the Jets defense is there's going to be 11 guys on the field. You never know where they're going to line up, but there's going to be 11 of them."

It's not just Roman who's developing a five o' clock shadow these days. Roman also said his "all-star" assistant coaching staff has also been staying up late into the night and that shaving has gone by the wayside.

"Saw them all pretty unshaven about three in the morning this morning wearing white t-shirts, finishing up preparations for today," Roman said. "So, really proud of that group of guys and how hard they're working."

Players and coaches alike have changed their routines with the 49ers traveling to Youngstown for a week of preparation. For Roman, the isolation has encouraged a healthy attitude of collaboration among the coaches, something the entire staff has enjoyed.

But when the 49ers and Jets do battle on Sunday in MetLife Stadium, Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will be trying to outsmart several of their former co-workers. Roman and Fangio worked together from 2006-07 on a Baltimore Ravens staff that also featured current Jets coach Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman.

Heading into the Week 4 matchup, Roman is expecting the unexpected.

"Some really good coaches, great innovators," Roman said. "Really changed defense in the NFL, forced offense to adjust. It's been happening for the past probably six or seven years. … We just have to be ready for anything. Rex and Mike and that coaching staff are an outside the box type of staff, so we got to be ready for anything, no matter who's on the field."

Ryan is one of the biggest personalities in the NFL and on Thursday Fangio provided reporters with a funny anecdote of their time together in Baltimore.

"Anytime they served Mexican food at Baltimore for one of our meals, it was known as Rex-ican, not Mexican, because he loved Mexican food," Fangio said. "Supposedly with his new diet and physique, he's cut down. He hasn't eliminated Mexican food, he just doesn't pile it on the plate like he used to."

Ryan went out of his way to commend Fangio earlier this week, citing the work ethic and smarts of the 49ers defensive coordinator.

This week, Fangio's task will be to slow down a versatile New York Jets offense. New York ranks 11th in the league in points scored, averaging 27 per game, including an impressive 48-28 blowout victory over the Bufallo Bills in Week 1.

"They play a lot of different personnel," Fangio said. "They've got a one wide receiver offense. They've got a two wide receiver offense. They've got three wide receiver offense. They'll play a lineman at tight end. They'll give you some unbalanced line. They'll give you the (Tim) Tebow package, which you have to prepare for, so they're very multiple."

Ah yes, Tebow. The polarizing quarterback has played sparingly on offense in his first three games for the Jets and has also played on special teams. In fact, he took a short snap on a fake punt attempt in Week 3 and carried it five yards for a first down.

The 49ers already have some practice facing dual-threat quarterbacks, as backup Colin Kaepernick is a fluid runner and passer, but Fangio said Tebow creates unique challenges.

"You have to take it very serious," Fangio said, "because they'll play him some in there and it's more like it gets back to the college-type offense where there's the gun read, the quarterback runs where he fakes it and then keeps it and it's just a quarterback power. It's an everyday power, but it's with the 11th guy on the field not the 10th."

Another player to keep an eye on is receiver Santonio Holmes. Safety Donte Whitner said the 49ers will have to key on Holmes throughout the afternoon, as he has become quarterback Mark Sanchez's favorite target, while Fangio was also quick to praise Holmes' abilities.

"He's very explosive," Fangio said. "He's fast. He's quick. He's athletic and he's very dangerous after the catch. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he's like a punt returner."


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