More Freedom for Manusky Improves the 49ers Defense
December 10, 2008 at 11:57 AM
Sure, Shaun Hill is getting lots of well deserved praise for the 49ers recent winning streak. But there is another improvement that seems to be going unnoticed. The 49ers defense is playing extremely well under Manusky and Singletary.
Lets first start off with a basic premise: Greg Manusky is calling the shots on defense. Coach Singletary stated his role when it comes to the defense is to help with the game planning. Singletary has input in the game plan for sure, as do various other coaches. On game day, Manusky calls the shots and it's clear that Singletary gives Manusky more freedom than Nolan did. Manusky went from implementing Nolan's defense to crafting his own and the results show.
The first, and perhaps most important, thing Manusky did was finally settle on an identity for the defense and made it a base 3-4. The results are obvious if you watch the games, but more obvious when you delve into the stats.
The 3-4 allowed both Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson more playing time. They have both responded with improved play. Haralson has 12 solo tackles and 7 assists in 5 games. More importantly he has 3 1/2 sacks over the same period. Lawson, inactive for 2 weeks early in the season, has 6 tackles and 9 assists over the last five games in addition to 2 sacks. In other words, the edge rushers are making more of an impact in Manusky's 3-4 instead of relying on situational defensive ends.
Even Patrick Willis is seeing higher tackle numbers, as was expected in a 3-4 scheme with 48 solo tackles coming in the last 5 weeks. That's an average of 9.6 tackles a game. Willis only averaged 7.25 solo tackles throughout the preceding 8 games.
The 49ers are allowing fewer rush yards per game over the last six weeks, an average of 34 yards per game fewer. This contributes to a time of possession swing of about a minute and 17 seconds per game. The defense is allowing fewer touchdowns through the air (1.8 under Manusky/Singletary versus 3.1 under Nolan).
Finally, the 5th point of Singletary's mantra - finish. The 49ers are allowing fewer than 6 points in the fourth quarter under Manusky's improved defense. Under Nolan they were allowing a little over 9 points in the fourth quarter. Considering they lost games to Seattle by three points (week 2), and New England (week 5) by 9 points, stronger finishes could potentially have had an impact in these games.
What accounts for these changes? Not knowing the game plans certainly hampers us in this exercise, but we can make some good guesses. The consistency behind the 3-4 scheme is allowing players to settle into their roles. Manusky also seems to be fitting his defense to the players, as opposed to fitting his players into his defense. I've said it in this space before, but schematic agility and flexibility is a must for great football coaches.
Also, Manusky said he is melding things he learned under Phillips with things he learned from Nolan. Singletary's ego seems to be one that is tolerant of another coordinator's ideas. He is allowing Manusky to run with a new defense, instead of trying to cram something down the coordinator's throat. All in all, it seems that more freedom for Manusky is certainly paying dividends for the 49ers defense.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
By: fansterDate: December 12, 2008 at 2:36 PMComment: In your last response, you stated that Franklin and SOAP were UNDERSIZED....????? I thought both those guys were around 320lbs??? Franklin might be a touch undersize at NT, but I thought Soap was a little on the BIG side for a DE, even a DE playing in the 3-4. You are right on about our improved D. It is nice to see the D start to have an identity. Good eye on pointing out the 1 gap scheme. You are right on the money with this article. Nice work
By: Hill to HillDate: December 10, 2008 at 2:54 PMComment: Hey Oscar, they actually won in week two against Seattle (33-30). I would also like to add that there were a few games (Patriots and Eagles) where 4th quarter TO's by JTO had a LARGE part to do with their losses. And I was starting to wonder what happened to Lawson? But after seeing him the past few weeks, I understand it was all due to an ineffective scheme pre-Singletary era.
By: Mike in MDDate: December 10, 2008 at 1:24 PMComment: It's finally good to see Manusky is getting his head out of his a**. For a while there I wanted him out of here on a platter for being hypnotized by the Nolan kool-aid & not able to snap out of it. The last couple of games he's starting to get it. I like that he's doing what he's more comfortable at which is running a 3-4. This last game though (I don't have my copy yet) he said they ran more 4-3 w/t DL penetrating & 1-gapping...HALLELUIAH FINALLY!! But the combination of Singletary's effect (holding everyone accountable, inspiration/motivation, raising the intensity, personnel adjustments, giving DC his freedom, etc) & Manusky finally starting to come into his own is getting some great results. His next step is to get more of that AGGRESSION in his arsenal...more pre-snap MOVEMENT/CONFUSION like when he first arrived here & us attacking more & dictating instead of waiting too much read & reacting. HE NEEDS TO WATCH MORE FILM OF LEBEAU, JJOHNSON, & BALTIMORE'S DEFENSES & SERIOUSLY START TAKING NOTES. But he's coming along & I'm definitely for keeping the continuity & retaining him next season. Watch the above film Greg! And keep up the good work.