Thursday was coordinator day for 49ers game week press conferences. OC Greg Roman met with the media, and it should surprise nobody that he had to spend a chunk of the session explaining why the Jaguars present a challenge to the 49ers. Teams can spring upsets, but given how poor the Jaguars have performed, this has become a running storyline all week.
Roman also had some comments about Mario Manningham. Apparently he scored a touchdown in practice on Wednesday, and that led to a bit of an eruption led by Alex Boone. Given the 49ers wide receiver woes, this is not entirely shocking!
"It's great to be here, really enjoyed the English countryside driving up here and the facilities and service at The Groove are second to none. It's a far cry from Fawlty Towers. But the facilities here are great. The hotel, the way it's laid out. Really haven't skipped a beat. We're deep into our preparations for a very good Jacksonville team that continues to improve every week. And talking about their defense a little bit, very aggressive defensive front, always hitting the quarterback. Probably have as good a four man rush as we've seen. Linebackers are very active and it's very dangerous team, just ask Denver. They had them on the ropes. And we're getting ready for a 60-minute affair. Any questions?"
Who stands out on that defensive front when you look at them?
"Well, [DE Jason] Babin for sure stands out, just his edge rush pass ability, his pedigree, but really the whole front. All four, they rotate guys through quite often, but all four consistently hit the quarterback and they're very active. You can tell that they're a high-energy defense and while they haven't come up with many wins they're getting better every week. And we look at them as a very, very good opponent."
99 DT Sen'Derrick Marks, is he kind of an under-the-radar kind of guy?
"Very under the radar. He gets off the ball as good as anybody we've played. He is off on the count and getting consistent penetration. So, while he's not getting the numbers, he's setting things up for everybody else quite a bit. So, we're very aware of him. Very good."
When you say hits on the quarterback, obviously they don't have the sack numbers. So, what do you consider a hit? Because I know coaches can grade differently?
"Right. Well, he's hitting the quarterback legally. And while they aren't getting big sack numbers, they're getting some real live shots on the quarterback. So, it's all clean and aggressive. So, we've got our work cut out for us."
Schematically, are they pretty much the way Seattle was last year?
"Similar. Very similar to Seattle. I wouldn't say exactly the same. I think they've definitely adapted their scheme to players. But, very similar."
When a team is 0-7, people are going to say it's not going to be a contest. It's going to be a big blowout. Was that I guess as a staff, did you have to convey early in the week immediately to your players like, hey, here's the deal, this is a legitimate team?
"Well, I definitely think so. I think that's the first thing you do. Because when you turn on the film, you may have preconceived ideas as a coach, we're getting ready to play this team. And then you turn on the film and it's, woah, boy, Indianapolis throws two picks early. They can't get out of their own way. Denver's struggling to move the ball for a lot of their game. They're pulling rabbits out of the hat during the game. So, when you look at the film as always, the film tells you everything."
In conjunction with that, you're out of your routine here. Do you have to kind of remind your guys here too that it's football preparation week even though it's as nice as it is here?
"You know, it feels eerily similar to Santa Clara today. The weather is truly a gift today. It's a beautiful day. So, we really don't have to remind our players of that. Our guys are very serious about winning and it starts with the veteran leadership, the [RB] Frank Gore's, the [WR Anquan] Boldin's, the [TE] Vernon Davis', [T Joe] Staley. I think we've got a great group that they're not going to let anybody's mind slip from where it needs to be, and that's trying to win a football game."
Do you expect WR Jon Baldwin to practice today or tomorrow?
"We're hopeful. We're hopeful that he will practice today."
Going back to the Nashville game, how encouraging was it to see the read option succeed the way it has in the past? And going forward as a play caller what kind of confidence does it give you?
"We had some success with it in that game and it may or may not be a part of this game. And it's just something that week to week we make the decision on whether or not it's going to be featured."
Earlier in the game, I think that first drive, you tried it a couple of times. And it wasn't real successful. But, then on that third and seven, you pulled it out again. Why did you call it on that play? That play that ended up with the QB Colin Kaepernick touchdown?
"It was just one of those things that was third and seven and just felt like we would succeed in getting the first down. And the players did a great job. Frank did a great job of springing it for a touchdown."
Colin and Vernon have really picked up their chemistry this year. What would you attribute that to? What's really helped them click on the field?
"I just think it's time on task. They're two highly competitive people that want to be successful. They're very talented. And the more they work together, the more they'll hook up. And Vernon's having just a great year all around. And just watching him prepare every day is a great thing to see. And what a professional he is. And very talented person that we are very fortunate to have on our team."
How's WR Mario Manningham? Does he look rusty out on the practice field?
"No, Mario looks good. Mario's a guy that's got really, really good understanding of football. He's a guy that we would probably use the word ‘savvy' to describe. Really like how he runs routes. How he understands leverage as the play develops. And he's looking good, working hard. And he's looking good.
Is he running with the scout team mostly, or is he doing-?
"No, he's getting reps with the ones. He scored a touchdown yesterday in practice with the ones and [G/T Alex] Boone and everybody else decided that it was time to have an eruption. And we all had a celebration on the field welcoming him back."
How long was the pass?
"It was long enough."
You're about to get back, as the season will progress, two elite receivers are coming back. Will that change your game calling a lot?
"I think as coaches, you always try to work to your players' strength, and how the collective balances out relative to the opponent. So, I think anytime you add somebody to the mix it's going to change what you do and how you do it because you're always trying to work to the strengths of the players you have available. And the bottom line is winning, whether it's by one point or 40 points. We want to walk out of here this week with a win. It's going to be tough against a tough opponent. But, depending on who you have ready for that game, it's going to depend on what plan you have."
Was it just Boone that lifted up Mario?
"No, they didn't physically lift him up. But, everybody just went nuts welcoming him back. But, I think Boone was leading the charge on that."
One more on Mario, is it realistic to think that after the BYE week he'll be activated? Is that the timing?
"It's hard to tell right now. It's day to day. And he'll just continue to work day to day and he'll be evaluated day to day."
I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the setting for the game. The weather is good today. But, this is Britain, it could change. And then also Wembley and the British fans, how's the setting for you this week?
"The setting, we can't worry about the setting. We're going to try to always be averse to any circumstance, good bad or whatnot. And just try to stay as focused as possible. And that's one of the things we can take out of this week is the ability to focus individually and as a group in a different setting, under different circumstances. And we are thrilled and excited to be here to try to show what the 49ers are about to a different group of people. And I don't think anything is really going to affect what happens on the field. But, everybody's definitely really excited about showing the fans of England what the 49ers are about."
You talked about the Jags defensive front. But, it can't go unnoticed that they've allowed more than 1,000 rushing yards this season already. They're struggling. What's the film shown you on that?
"There have been times when they've been put in rough spots. And the reality of it I think, what the statistics lose, is if you're behind in a game, you're probably going to be throwing it a lot. And if you're up in a game, you're probably going to be running it a lot. And I think a lot of those rushing yards are attributed to the fact that people are running the ball in the fourth quarter a lot, or have been in some games. In some games, that's not been the case, it's been down to the wire. And that's what we're getting ready for, a tough football game."
Have you had an opportunity to sightsee, or is it just been here grinding away in the room and film room?
"Oh, grinding. Grinding away, yes. Oh yeah. Started on the plane. The whole coaching staff has been doing a great job working late into the night. And I shaved this morning. But, none of us have really had much time to do anything except get ready for the game. A lot of our families are here though. It's great to see the kids running around. My kids and my wife, they were at the Harry Potter exhibit yesterday with the [senior offensive consultant Eric] Mangini kids. So, everybody's been having fun as far as our families. But, it's all business for us. But, I think we'll get some sightseeing in tomorrow, though. Looking forward to it. I've done a lot of reading about the great country of England. But, never seen it with my own eyes. So, really looking forward to it."
Anything in particular that you want to do, or want to see?
"I want to see the Thames. I want to see Big Ben obviously. And would love to go to Parliament, but don't think we're going to have time for that just yet. But, just London, the city, the people, and just knowing what a rich history there is here."