At this point of the season when the 49ers are installing plays every day of training camp, it's common for the defense to be one step ahead of their counterparts, especially when the offense is learning a new system. Even during offseason minicamps and organized team activities it was the same way.
But so far at camp, the 49ers offense has proven they can move the ball against their opposition.
Not to worry says defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
"I don't want them to complete any balls of course," he said after the first of two Tuesday workouts. "But from a standpoint of us working on our stuff, that's what we're looking for. If a quarterback sits back there for five seconds, you expect the rush to get there as well. So even though they're completing balls, they might have had a sack."
In addition to not being able to take the quarterback down, the defense is constantly making play calls based on what they want to work on for the day, not based on their opponent.
"Sometimes all of your installs don't mesh," Manusky said. "An example might be, maybe they have a route to beat a certain coverage and I just happen to call it. It's not like I'm game-planning for our offense or they're game-planning us."
Preparing for teams during the season is a completely different animal.
"We're working on what we need to be working on, what we need to get good at, and what we're going to play during the season, depending upon the team that we play," Manusky added. "So all of a sudden if we're playing somebody, and this is a good coverage, we'll work that coverage."
Overall, Manusky is pleased with the progression of his players in his system. This is year three of Manusky's reign as leader of the defense and the players have improved in his 3-4 scheme from year-to-year.
"I think we're real comfortable with the defense," defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin said. "This year we're striving to be a top-five defense. That's what we want to accomplish."
Several players believe the unit can make the jump into the league's top defenses because of the continuity that exists within the group.
"We know how each other play," outside linebacker Manny Lawson said. "We have great communication even without saying anything, because we've been around each other and the camaraderie we've built."
Manusky praised Lawson in his press conference on Tuesday, but said he's always expecting more out of him.
With Lawson a year-plus removed from his ACL tear he suffered prior to week three of the 2007 season, the 49ers pass-rushing 'backer in sub package situations has shown that he's fully recovered from it. Now, Manusky wants to see Lawson unleash his potential on the rest of the NFL.
Already at camp, Lawson has shown tremendous speed rushing ability as well as a knack for knocking passes down at the line of scrimmage with his 6-foot-5 body and long arms.
"Tips and over throws I think are big," Manusky said. "And the more balls that we can knock down, before the quarterback even has a chance to get it to the receiver is better off for us. So across the board from the defensive line to the linebackers whoever is rushing, that is the most important thing during training camp."
Also crucial to the defense this year is picking up their sack total. Last year, the 49ers sacked opposing quarterbacks 30 times, good for the 16th most in the NFL. Manusky said it doesn't matter who provides the sacks, he just wants to see them in abundance this upcoming season.
"Coming off the OTA's and coming off the mini camps we had in the offseason, we have made progress," he said of his unit. "Guys are starting to mesh and bond. Some of the younger guys, rookies, free agent guys, are starting to get it. So there is a bright spot on the defense."
PM Practice Particulars
The offense worked on situational third down plays in the afternoon. To start the skelly (7-on-7) potion of practice, the first-team offense led by Alex Smith converted their first five plays for first downs.
During team session, Vernon Davis was stripped from behind by cornerback Marcus Hudson after he caught a drag route and tried to run up the field. Hudson immediately scooped the ball and ran it back down the right sideline for a would-be touchdown.
On the last day of practice, the offense picked up a huge gain on the ground thanks to a draw play designed to give rookie running back Glen Coffee ample running space. The rookie took the handoff from Shaun Hill and proceeded to bounce out to his left where he found more open space. Undrafted rookie wideout Dobson Collins gave Coffee an excellent block, which allowed Coffee to run freely up the left sideline for a likely touchdown.
Towards the very end of practice, starting right guard Chilo Rachal left practice with a headache.