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Updated: August 13th, 2012 12:55pm
Alan Williams 'felt encouraged' despite Vikings' struggles against run

Alan Williams 'felt encouraged' despite Vikings' struggles against run

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Alan Williams knows his defense didn't make a good first impression in Friday's exhibition opener at San Francisco.

But the Minnesota Vikings' new defensive coordinator stressed on Monday the issues that allowed the 49ers to run for 265 yards on 39 non-kneeldown carries (6.8 average) are correctable.

"Saw a few misfits, a few bad angles to the football, but I also saw some good things," Williams said. "I saw guys running to the ball with great effort, guys taking care of their responsibilities -- just not consistently enough, and of course, when you're in the NFL and you don't take care of your assignments, that's the type of day that you're going to have against a good team."

The Vikings opened the game without three starters -- defensive linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield -- and lost another, nose tackle Letroy Guion, to a minor knee injury as he chased halfback Rock Cartwright on the 49ers' second play from scrimmage.

Several other starters departed after the 49ers' opening 12-play, 84-yard drive, which included runs of 19 yards by Cartwright, 14 yards by Kendall Hunter and 23 yards by Brandon Jacobs.

The 49ers' second series lasted only two plays, capped by backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 78-yard touchdown run.

Williams said the problem was "(n)ot a whole bunch of physical things. Mostly was guys that just, again, were not in their gaps. Could have stayed in their gaps, saw the ball maybe inside and went inside and the ball bounced outside, or a few angles in terms of pursuit and in terms of how guys got to the football.

"The angles could have been better. They ran hard, but we also say we want to run smart. So, when we get to that, it'll be fine."

Most obvious were two mistakes by the Vikings' safeties. Mistral Raymond took a poor angle to allow Jacobs' run to get outside, and Jamarca Sanford lost vision on Kaepernick's play fake, which also sucked in left end Nick Reed and opened the gate.

Several other starters had rough cameos, too -- none more than middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, whom coach Leslie Frazier admitted on Sunday "wasn't quite as sharp as we'd like for him to be and it was not all the way unexpected" for a player who missed all of last season following hip surgery.

Williams threw his support behind Brinkley on Monday, though, saying the fourth-year pro is knocking off rust "and coming along just like we thought he would come. We're pleased with Jasper."

Neither Brinkley nor Guion, who mostly played undertackle the past three seasons, has previously been a full-time starter. Sanford started 15 games in 2011, but either he or Raymond is likely to lose the job to rookie first-round pick Harrison Smith, who move into the lineup as soon as Friday's exhibition against Buffalo.

Asked if he feels the defense is strong enough up the middle, Williams said, "Yeah, I do. they're coming along. Just need more reps. It's been a little bit since Brinkley's been on the field full-speed.

"Actually, the way he played and the way they were up the middle, I felt encouraged about what we have."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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