Sopoaga making a statement

Some thought Isaac Sopoaga might struggle just to keep his job along the 49ers' defensive line this summer, but instead the fourth-year tackle has been one of the more impressive performers of the preseason, stringing together two of the finest games of his career. Here, Sopoaga talks about his progression as a nose tackle and the stellar play that has solidified his standing in the DL rotation.

Q: How would you evaluate your play in the past few preseason games?
Sopoaga:
It was all right. Every play I pride myself in doing my job to help the team.

Q: Do you feel like you're making the most of the opportunity to be a starter during the preseason?
Sopoaga:
I feel like it's going in the right direction toward the point that I want it to be.

Q: What kind of goals to have going into this season now after playing so well this summer?
Sopoaga:
Just go for that ‘W' for the team.

Q: Do you feel you're in the best position to do that this season compared to the last couple of years to help the team?
Sopoaga:
Yeah. I've just been working hard and doing the things that need to be done in order to help our football team win.

Q: What do you see that's improved in your game that's allowed you to take the next step?
Sopoaga:
There's more improvement in my game because I'm reading the offense. That's the most important thing for me, and that's the biggest thing that I needed to work on. I'm at another level of learning the other team's offense and their game plan on the field.

Q: Is the nose tackle position in a 3-4 scheme better suited to your skills than the defensive tackle position in a 4-3?
Sopoaga:
It doesn't matter to me, playing inside on the nose or playing tackle in the three technique. I feel like their both the same in a lot of ways and you're doing the same job, push the ball and pressure the quarterback, playing double-teams. … It's the same thing.

Q: Does it feel pretty good to get let loose and make penetration in the backfield, like you did in Saturday's game at Chicago, when you had two stops for no gain and another tackle for a loss?
Sopoaga:
Oh yeah. I mean, that would be awesome, that would be great. Letting me loose, that would be awesome.

Q: How often do you usually get let loose in a game?
Sopoaga:
A would say a time or two, because you don't really want to get loose in kind of defense, because our job is to maintain the line of scrimmage. Of an on, coaches will let us loose, but main point is we have to play the line.

Q: Do opponents try to block you one-on-one still?
Sopoaga:
I would say once or twice out of 80 snaps because they don't want their man to be one-on-one on me because I will push him back and also I will put pressure on the offense.

Q: That's what you want though, a number of different guys on you so that the linebackers aren't being blocked?
Sopoaga:
That's the thing, our defensive ends and linebackers make plays, because we're all one defense.

Q: Do you feel like you can still make some plays though, even though your job is sacrifice for others?
Sopoaga:
It depends. It's not like every play, but it can happen. I guess (the Bears) were coming to me, because they love me or want to test me.

Q: Since your job is to hold the point, is it pretty gratifying when you do break free and make a solo play like on Saturday?
Sopoaga:
That's awesome. But it's (gratifying) when my teammates are making plays because I was doing my job, not letting the center or guard get to our second-level guys.


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