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Transcript - Practice (Sept. 26, 2018)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 | Hoag Performance Center | Costa Mesa, Calif.


Opening statement:

"Watching this team and looking at their situations, it seems very similar to us. They finished the season last year pretty hot. They're 1-2 right now. They've lost to pretty good football teams. They have a lot of weapons. You look at their offensive line, their left tackle Joe Staley is one of the best in the game, and they're doing a hell of a job running the football. I think they're number two in the league in rushing right now. They have the leading rusher in the backfield. Their wide receivers and those guys, they can play football. We have a lot of challenges in front of us, and we've got our work cut out for us."

On the San Francisco secondary:

"I'm not sure how vulnerable the secondary is. It depends on how well the defensive line plays to be honest with you. They have a whole host up front, but if [49ers CB] Richard [Sherman] doesn't play, I'm sure they have a quality backup and he's good in their system. 

On the San Francisco offense with 49ers QB C.J. Beathard:

"[C.J.] is more than capable of running this offense. He played in six games last year. He beat the Giants. I'm sure he learned from his rookie season. They took him in the third round for a reason. He'll move around a little bit. They do more things with him as far as quarterback-driven runs and things like that. I believe he can function well within that offense."

On if the offensive scheme will be similar to the Rams from last week:

"Very similar, very similar and that's the pro side of this. We saw a lot of it last week, we've got some reps. There are some tweaks here and there, but they're an up-tempo offense. They like to move — move and shift — and try to create matchups that way. They're going to bootleg it all day, and change the launch point for the quarterback, which makes it harder to get to them — and the running game is clicking right now, so it makes them really dangerous."

On the San Francisco defensive line:

"Yeah, they've got their defense. They've got three first-round picks just up front. I saw those boys a couple years ago when they were puppies and now they're grown men — and they're playing like it. They're really stingy against the run right now."

On the success of the offensive scheme San Francisco uses:

"Yeah, it always has been very complementary. It always starts with the wide-zone scheme and all the run actions that come off of that. It's really hard to stop them. It puts linebackers in a bind. You're downhill too far, the ball is behind if he's not down there fast enough to run the ball in, so it's a challenging scheme."

On if the two losses have been moral victories:

"No, it's not easy. Not at all. We never expected to lose those games to be honest with you. So hopefully we learned from it and we get better, but, no, it's not easy."

On teams blitzing less this season:

"I'm not sure why. [Rams Defensive Coordinator] Wade [Phillips] has never been a big blitzer, to be honest with you. He's always had the guys up front to get after you, to play cover and play to the outside, but I'm not sure what's going on around the league. I know our team, we mix it in here and there, but that really hasn't been our handle in the past. We may do some things differently just to mix it a little bit more."

On the benefits and drawbacks to blitzing:

"When you start blitzing people, yeah, you can speed up the game and make the quarterback make quicker decisions, but you leave certain positions vulnerable and you have to look at the matchups that are on the field."

On more teams utilizing run-pass options:

"Well, speaking of RPOs, that is something that can slow you down because the ball's coming out quick. The quarterback isn't holding on to it. It can slow you down."

On the similarities between 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and his father Mike Shanahan:

"Like I said, I've known both of those guys all my life. Mike is a mentor of mine. I played for him, he hired me as a coach. I've known Kyle. Like I said, he's very detailed and very strategic in his thinking. He's a hard worker and he can relate to his players and get the most out of them — heck of a football coach."

On if he could tell Kyle Shanahan had the makings of a coach in his youth:

"Oh, yeah, you saw it all along."

On G Forrest Lamp:

"We'll see at the end of the week. Our time and situation have kind of dictated that. We brought in [T] Trent Scott because of our situation last week, but we'll see at the end of the week how that goes."

On DE Joey Bosa:

"Joey will not practice today. You can go ahead and rule him out this week."

On S Derwin James being just the second DB in the last 30 years with two sacks and an interception in his first three games:

"That doesn't surprise me. He's a good football player and he's still learning. He's still growing. I love his demeanor on game day. I'm glad he's a Charger."

On what aspects of Derwin James could improve:

"He's still learning our system. We're moving him different places and we have different run fits and different coverages. He's just a baby right now, but he's growing like a weed."


On WR Mike Williams:

"Well, I kind of feel like he's still developing. He's doing a good job. He's kind of growing into a lot of different roles. Obviously, the catch down the field was a big play and it was nice to see him make that play. We're learning more and more about Mike, his ability to do different things and how we can try to get him in different spots. To his credit, he's worked hard to do that, So it's an exciting time."

On Mike Williams' progress:

"You know what? I think naturally, just because you're not a rookie anymore. Things change, but I think he's fortunate to be in with a really good group of receivers — a good group of guys. I mean, that's probably the most special thing. I think that's really helped him develop. [WR] Keenan [Allen] and [WR] Tyrell [Williams], [WR] Travis [Benjamin] — those guys are really good. They're really good men and really good players. They talk and then help each other. I think situationally as well as [their preparation], they have come a long way in helping Mike. To Mike's credit, he listens and does a good job."

On if he is surprised with Mike Williams' performance this season:

"You know, if you had asked me this last time this year — if you had asked me this a year ago — I would say probably yes because I hadn't seen him do it. When we talked about this earlier, we talked about how during the course of OTAs and through camp he started making more and more plays and just started building. So I've been very impressed with his body of work over the last three months. It's just great to see that starting to pay off. A lot of times with the younger players, confidence is a big part of it. When you make a couple of big plays like he's done, then you can build off of that. He's been really good to see."

On if Mike Williams' deep receiving touchdown meant more with Rams CB Marcus Peters in coverage:

"Well, it means more — I think it does, yeah. Actually, technically, it was against Marcus and [Rams CB Aqib] Talib. Talib was coming back over the top and he got there, too. So two of their best players, he made a play when they were right there. So, yeah, that's impressive. I mean, you've got to give Mike credit. He was disciplined in his route. He did exactly what he needed to do, which gave him the leverage to do what he did. Let's not forget [QB Philip Rivers] made a pretty good throw, but still, Mike did a great job coming down with it."

On areas where Mike Williams can improve:

"A lot of times, it's easy. We have a play in a game where he slipped on a route and moved back up on the third down. We had a pass to him, and he was wrapping in there [on the route] and [QB] Philip [Rivers] was getting ready to throw it and he slipped. He got out of position with his body, his feet got out from under him and he went down. Those are the little kind of things that maybe you don't notice because the ball's not coming to him. In that particular situation, those are the things that all of us, everybody has to continue to work on — just those kind of things — but, once again, he's doing a really good job."

On if you can correct putting your body in the right position:

"Yes. It's really about staying on your feet and how you make the cut. Sometimes, you stand up too high and you lean the wrong way going into a cut, your feet catch the grass the wrong way and slip out from under you. Listen, Mike's [Williams] not the only guy that happens to. You see it happen all the time, but when you ask about the little things that you want to work on, those are some of the little things that you always have to continue to try to work on."

On better first down production than last season:

"I think maybe being together for a second year. You know, we've got some new guys, [C Mike] Pouncey has taken it well — no disrespect to any of the guys that we've had here before, but our group, just understanding the scheme, we're doing a better job of implementing that, and our backs are doing a good job. [Running Backs Coach] Alfredo [Roberts] and those guys have worked with them. Hitting their landmarks and being able to do some things from different scheme-wise that fit what they do well, I think has helped us a lot. So it had to be. I mean, our head coach is a running back guy. If they weren't better, somebody was going to pay."

On the NFL's weight rule regarding protecting quarterbacks:

"With anything, when you talk about defensive pass interference, there are a lot of different calls in this game where they're going to create interest, controversy. I think protecting the quarterback is paramount to this league just because those guys are so important and they're such good players. The league is trying to do it and they're trying to protect the quarterback. With anything, there are always going to be some bumps in the road in trying to make it right. It's so hard because the game goes so fast. I think they're trying to do that. I respect that. I know there are a lot of people that have opinions about it, but I can't — I mean, you just have to go out there and continue to push on. I understand what the uproar is about, but it doesn't affect getting ready to play San Francisco this week, so I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it."

On T Sam Tevi:

"I think Sam has grown in that position. I think he's a little bit like Mike Williams, you know. He's getting some extended playing time. We saw a little bit of him last year against the Jets. He started that game and did a pretty good job — made a few mistakes. I think what you're seeing of him now is he's still making a few mistakes, but he's really doing some good things. You can tell he's starting to understand the subtleties of the position and how to play it. So he's growing in a position. Kudos to him because what you want to see is a guy that has his talent work the way that he's working and seeing him grow into that position. So he's doing a nice job."

On the offensive line:

"You know, it would be hard to say you're pleased about anything when you haven't won all three games, but the thing that I would say we're pleased with how the guys are working. We are doing some good things, especially in the run game. We're doing some good things protection-wise. I mean, we can always do better. We have to start games better than we've been starting them. But the way the line is coming and working together, yeah, I'm pleased with how that group has gone. 

On facing a similar defensive scheme:

"You know, it's like you asked me last week, we knew [Rams Defensive Coordinator] Wade [Phillips] because we played him all those years in Denver. You know, sometimes it does, sometimes it hurts because you think that you know what you're going to see or you know that you're going to get this look. I mean, there are subtle differences that they do. They have different players. We're not going against the guys — the same guys that we see every day. So it's different. It is similar, but it is a little bit different. I think you have to try to prepare. You can't say, okay, hey, [Defensive Coordinator] Gus [Bradley], run this because they run it a little bit different you run it against different players. You have to look at it from the perspective of both. We're looking at different defense, different guys and prepare that way."

On struggling to score on the opening possession:

"I tell you what, if you go back to 2016, I think we were one of the better teams in the league in scoring on first possessions, but that didn't give us much. So I think it is a stat that you can measure things by, but it doesn't necessarily factor into how good you're going to be now. Now I say that and we're 1-2, but, yes, we need to be better at starting games. We got down against Denver last year for our chance to break that jinx, and we had first and goal, and then went four plays and didn't score. Gosh, we just haven't gotten out of that funk yet. That's something that we want to do better and it is something that we talked about."

On G Dan Feeney:

"About halfway through the season last year when he had to get in and play, he was kind of thrown to the wolves. There were some things where he struggled a little bit, but he's a smart, tough player. He really works at it and he does it. What's really good is having [T] Russell [Okung] on his left side because those two communicate really well, and I think it helps him from that standpoint. He's grown into a good offensive player, a good offensive lineman. You know, he's had some pretty tough matchups. Last week against [Rams DT Aaron Donald] was not easy. There were a couple where it was tough for him, just like it is with every lineman that goes against the guy, but he held his own and fought, and we're pleased with how Dan's doing for us."

On TE Antonio Gates:

"Well, you know, you always wonder where he is. I mean, you know he's a veteran, but we hadn't seen him in a long time. You worry about conditioning, you worry about risk of injury, all of those things for a guy in his position. So I think part of the process was getting through that, but it was definitely big for us last week the way he played and competed. He's in a good spot now. I think we can start thinking about more areas where he can contribute to us and what's good to have him."

On how the offense has adjusted to the absence of TE Hunter Henry:

"Well, you know, there are a lot of teams that lose really good players, and Hunter is a really good player for us. I think we're fortunate because we've got a good group of guys that can be multiple and play different spots. You know, [TE] Virgil [Green] has done a really good job for us. He's played well. You can't replace Hunter — Hunter is a very gifted player for us — but our guys are working and doing a good job. So when Hunter gets back, it will be awesome because he'll make us even stronger."


On the NFL's weight rule regarding protecting quarterbacks:

"Yeah, I think the intent of the rule was good, so I think as a quarterback we can appreciate it. Obviously, as a passer you appreciate all the protection they've given us. At the same time, I can certainly feel for those defenders because they're trying. Some of them have been — I don't know what else they can do, some of them they've been calling has been tough. So I understand their frustration. We'll see how it kind of irons itself out, but I do think they're in a tough spot. They have a small target zone and then it's kind of hard for them not to land on it in some instance. So it's really putting it into a judgment of could you have avoided it? Did they really finish the tackle? It's making it hard. I think it's hard for it to be consistent. What one official may see as, 'Yeah, he did more than he had to do,' and what others may see, 'That's about as form tackle,' — it's just going to be hard to be clearly defined week to week."

On if the rule seems sloppy:

"I mean, I don't know. I don't know in that instance because once I have my finger on the ground, I'm pretty much going to land how I land, but there is a little bit of gamesmanship in it. I'm sure it lends to the fact of — shoot, we need a first down. You're trying to extend drives, but at the same time you want to compete as true and fair as you can. I don't know that there's a way to solve the problem in a sense other than I think it's, again, it's going to be a judgment. It's the same deal. They're usually a little less bang-bang though. Some of the ones in the secondary, they're so bang-bang, that I don't know if they even see helmet to helmet, it just looked bad. So sometimes you see flags there. Whereas in the pocket, usually you can see. These guys are running full speed and they're big, strong men. So it sometimes looks worse than maybe it was. Hopefully it kind of works its way and gets itself ironed out. We haven't had any that have come up, but again, I certainly side with the QBs, but at the same time, I understand. We want our guys to not cost us a 15-yard penalty when they're trying to do it the right way and end up getting caught."

On WR Mike Williams:

"Yeah, I think it's just he's really continued what we've said all training camp and all season — just keep stacking days and keep being consistent. He's put together the whole offseason, whole training camp and not missed a practice. You saw him each and every day making a play and him coming on. I think he's just still in this ascend to be the player he wants to be productivity-wise and just game-to-game. Obviously, he had the two huge plays in the game the other day and another big ball over the middle that he caught as well. So he's going to continue to be a part of it. I think he's done more than shown why he was picked where he was picked. Now it's just continuing to improve and sustain at this level of production as the season goes."

On trying to involve Mike Williams more in the offense:

"I think that's where we're unique offensively. We have so many dynamic guys that can touch the ball on any given play. So Whiz and the offensive staff, all of us, anybody can get it on any play. Yes, do we draw plays where we try to throw the ball to [WR] Keenan [Allen] here? Yeah — this one we're trying to get to Mike, this one trying to get to [WR] Travis [Benjamin] and this one [RB Austin] Ekeler, this one to [RB] Melvin [Gordon III], this one to [TE Antonio] Gates. We have a lot of guysI think it's a slippery slope if you're trying to put guys everywhere to push the ball their way. I think you mix it within our scheme. Some weeks it may be Mike Williams two-touchdown day and other weeks it may be somebody else. I think our guys appreciate that. It's an unselfish group, but I think they understand that's how it works best and that's how, in the long run, it helps each of them not to just be in a certain spot,  push the ball in certain things and just kind of let it play out the way it plays out within the progression play."  

On how Mike Williams' performance and the absence of TE Hunter Henry change the offense:

"I don't know that it's changed it. I don't know. I think, again, I think [TE] Virgil [Green] has been a nice addition, done a heck of a job — and getting [TE] Antonio [Gates] back to health. You've seen him contribute to a couple third down conversions last week. Then Mike's coming on again — I don't know who it's going to be each and every week. [WR] Travis [Benjamin] and [WR] Tyrell [Williams] are going to continue to be part of it. Travis has been out the last few weeks, but Tyrell, he had some plays in Buffalo. Those were big plays. It may read four [catches] for 45 [yards], I don't know what his stat line was, but those are big plays in the game, and they affected the defense because they know where these guys are. They know these guys can fly. This guy's big, and he's got a huge range. [WR] Keenan [Allen] can go anywhere all over the field. [RB Austin] Ekeler and [RB] Melvin [Gordon III] are going to catch a combined 100 balls this year, I would imagine. It's exciting as a quarterback and as an offense just to know we can do so many different things. We're not limited personnel-wise to really change it up to mix it up week to week."

On the beginning of the season for the offense:

"Yeah, one thing to is we're running the heck out of the ball right now. We're averaging over five yards-per-carry, which is huge. So the best offenses that we've had in my time here have been very balanced. [That's] not to say that we didn't have big days throwing the ball and some days running it, but just very balanced. That's what it feels like right now. We're really complimenting the run and the pass and getting a lot of first downs. There are things we have to do better. We weren't great in the red zone the other day, and we weren't great early in the game. There were a couple three-and-outs early. Which I think we had the fewest three-and-outs in the league last year or something like that, so we've just got to avoid those. Then the more first downs you get, the more opportunities you get to run it, throw it, and get it to one of those guys, like you mentioned, our playmakers." 

On WR Keenan Allen:

"I think it's getting a small sample size. It wouldn't shock me if he hits a stretch here where it's eight, nine, ten balls for a couple weeks in a row. At some point that's going to happen. I think we had a couple things up in Buffalo that we saw as it started to get to him and get a little flow. We got one ball batted [down]. That was going to be another catch. We had one, they ran a twist game and got a sack, that was going to be another 35-yard gain. So it just hasn't come up. Some things haven't come up the way we thought, but I don't know that it's anything the defenses are doing to take him away. I think, just again, it's a long haul. This is just a little blur in the season as far as the big picture. I think if he stays healthy and keeps on track, he's going to catch his hundred balls, I would imagine."

On 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo:

"I don't know him, but it's tough. You hate to see that. Especially the non-contact deal. I didn't see the replay until a few days ago. A lot has been made of he shouldn't have cut back in there, but it happened before there was any contact. So you hate to see that. You feel for him. The year he had last year, finally getting his opportunity to really, you know, be the quarterback of a franchise. Then this year, you know, all the expectations they had. So it's tough anytime you see any guys go down. It seems like there's been quite a few season-ending — seems like there's more. It seems like each week, not just at quarterback, but there are Achilles and ACLs and lots of things going on early in the season, but certainly hate to see that happen to him."

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