Q: What jumped out at you when you saw the 49ers game on Monday night?
Linehan: Number one, they found a way to win a tight ball game in the division which has got to be crucial. It was a great start for a team who has a lot of new faces and some great improvements. I would start with the secondary not just because of the name of the players, but also because they backed it up with how they played. There was a lot more pressure on the quarterback defensively, mixing things up, running that 3-4. Obviously, so were going to have our work cut out for us offensively, against a real improved defense. The rookie middle linebacker (Patrick Willis) looks like he's a big time player. There are a lot of match-ups that we have issues with. Obviously, offensively they have the same types of things that create problems for us; they have that downhill running game and that back (Frank Gore) is as good as there is in football. We've got our work cut out for us stopping that running game, as always. And people will try to establish that against us. The biggest thing is that I know Alex Smith very well. I've known him since he was little kid. And I know one thing: that kid is a winner. And the way he played on that last drive shows why he was the number one pick in the draft a couple of years ago. There is a reason why everyone is looking at San Francisco and Seattle as favorites in our division.
Q: How do you know Alex Smith?
Linehan: I know his uncle John L. Smith. For a number of years Alex would come up to games, when he was young. And then when I was in college (coaching), we recruited Alex out of high school when I was at Louisville. He ended up going to Utah. I followed him when he was playing high school ball in San Diego. When I was at Miami we had the number two pick and San Francisco drafted Alex and we ended up picking Ronnie Brown.
Q: Would Miami have taken Alex if he was still there?
Linehan: I don't know because I don't make the draft pick but I was hoping so. I had a pretty good idea that San Francisco was going to take him. And now we have to play against him.
Q: What do opposing coaches see in Alex Smith that makes them think he's going to be a player?
Linehan: He's maturing, you can tell he's got that system down now and is getting comfortable with the pro-style offense. I think that's all part of it. He spent most of his college career in the shot-gun, running around spread, with Urban Meyer at Utah. It was a transition for him and now you can see him up there running that pro-style offense, making the checks and audibles and throwing from the pocket. The thing that really kills you is and is the hardest to defend, is that he can take off and run. And he's just a great athlete, he just takes off. If you've got all the answers in coverage but you leave a lane for the guy, he's going to kill you.
Q: When you were at Louisville how close were you to getting Alex Smith?
Linehan: I don't really know the full story. I know that he and his uncle met for quite awhile behind closed doors. I think there was some concern for him coming and having the pressure of playing for his uncle. We were really close. I ended up going to the Minnesota Vikings that year. There were some things going on and I think John L. said ‘why don't you go closer to home' and Utah is where Alex's grandparents are from, southern Idaho, close to the Utah border there. I know Alex likes to ski. I know snow skiing was a big part of it and we didn't have many mountains in Louisville. It was obviously the greatest thing for him; he went to Utah and was an All-American a great player and the first round pick of the draft. It was the best place for him.
Q: Do you expect the 49er corners presence to allow Greg Manusky to be able to bring more pressure your way?
Linehan: I don't think there is any question. We can't control what San Francisco does. We just need to take care of ourselves. We know they have a much improved secondary and have added some great players. Hopefully we are up for the challenge. I still believe in the Rams in that we have some pretty good weapons ourselves.
Q: Is Adam Goldberg your left tackle?
Linehan: He is one of them. We haven't announced a starter yet. We're going to play musical lineman this week, and when the music stops, that guy is going to be our left tackle. Literally right now, we have a different group working tomorrow.
Q: How tough is it to replace Orlando Pace?
Linehan: There's an old saying that says you can put another guy in there, but you can't replace him in ability. You're talking about a Hall of Fame left tackle. We can either feel sorry for ourselves, or work to find a solution. I feel bad for Orlando himself, because he is in his best shape since they went to the Super Bowl.
Q: Did not playing Steven Jackson in the preseason have any affect on his performance last Sunday?
Linehan: None. Randy Moss had a good game and he didn't play in the preseason. It's hard to say. I think if Clinton Portis didn't play in the preseason a couple of years ago, he would have played those first 5 games that season. I know you can't control a lot of that, but the thing with Steven is that he is kind of like Frank (Gore) in that he has the ball in his hands all the time. It's one of those things where you are trying to get the guy to feel as good as he can from week 1 to week 16 and that was the decision I made.
Q: How is rookie Adam Carriker playing?
Linehan: He's been doing great. He is very solid playing a new position. As you guys and I know, he was on the radar over there as a defensive player. The middle and interior of our defense is much better than it was a year ago.
Q: Did you bring him in to shore up the run defense?
Linehan: That was part of it. I think he has the ability to transition to the pass game as well. He is a great athlete for a guy that tall. He can run and has pass rush ability too. When you are playing off center at the guard, it's hard to create that at a young age anyway.
Q: Did you think Carriker would go to the 49ers on draft day?
Linehan: I thought that was one team that made sense because of the 3-4. You don't necessarily know who we are drafting because you don't know how the draft is going to go, but it made sense. That was one of the things we were worried about, because we were hoping to get Carriker.
Q: How did you and your staff evaluate Patrick Willis before the draft?
Linehan: We thought he was a great player. We knew when San Francisco drafted him, they were getting a heck of a player. Whenever you draft a guy in the 1st round, a rookie that makes the field as a starter, you are feeling pretty good about yourselves. I think both franchises feel good about their number one pick and that's where we are with Adam and how we feel about Patrick as well.
Linehan lays it on the line
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