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James Laurinaitis talks Frank Gore, Colin Kaepernick, Rams pass rush

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St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis spoke with Bay Area media Thursday afternoon. He had a lot of great insight into the 49ers. We've got a transcript.

Dilip Vishwanat

Each week, the opposing team provides their head coach and a player to Bay Area media to discuss the upcoming matchup. This week, head coach Jeff Fisher and linebacker James Laurinaitis spoke to the media. Fisher was fairly vanilla with his comments, not wanting to give too much away. Laurinaitis spoke later in the day, and he was still able to provide some great insight into how an opposing player views the 49ers.

Laurinaitis went into detail on what makes Frank Gore and the 49ers run game so great. He also had some comments about Colin Kaepernick, discussing where he has improved this year. He did provide some insight into the Rams, discussing the struggling pass rush. He talked about how the pass rush is about both the rush and the coverage on the back end. He pointed to some specific issues in the secondary that made it more difficult to get all the way to the quarterback. I don't think he was trying to throw the secondary under the bus, but he definitely was critical of how the secondary performed last week.

You can listen to the audio, but I also transcribed it.

What does 49er week mean to you?

It means big boy football. I think it brings me somewhat back to my college days, in the sense that we played teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State that you get 22 personnel, 13 personnel, a lot of shifts, motions. You're gonna get power, counter, downhill and nothing but the utmost respect for Frank Gore and what he's about, and what they do on offense. I always look forward to these matchups because you know they're going to be physical ball games. You're gonna get their best shot, and likewise from us. It's always fun football games.

On what he admires about Frank Gore:

I admire his mindset. He runs with great patience. He runs with great pad level. It's very hard to get underneath him. He breaks a lot of tackles, great balance. I love his mindset that he wants to be the guy and he almost gets stronger as games go on. He's one of those running backs where you can give him a good shot, you can give him a couple of good shots, but he's not going to shy away. There are some backs in this league and they're going to take themselves out of the ballgame. I think Frank Gore is the opposite. In the fourth quarter when you watch a Niners game, his socks could be all the way down, his pants could be ripped, but he's going to keep going until that thing hits zero. And he wants it that way, and that's the thing I think I respect the most about him.

On Gore potentially leaving after this year:

Yeah, that would be very surprising to me. Heck, over the last how many ever years, you think of the Niners and you think of Frank Gore. At least I do. You think Frank Gore and you think Patrick Willis. So I think, to me, it would be very surprising if he's not back and a part of that football club.

On Gore's use with Carlos Hyde:

I think there's little changes in what they do with both of them, but they run the same plays. A lot of power, a lot of counter, a lot of plays we call zone kick, downhill stuff. There's some stretch stuff that they'll do with Carlos as well as Frank, but the main thing to me is you try to sprinkle Carlos in, and you can kind of tell Frank's not trying to give up any carries. It's interesting to see how they use them both, but quite frankly, it's not like one guy comes in and you tell yourself I'll throw away all these plays, because they run them all with both. I think Frank's more of a downhill, inside, patient, waits for openings, kind of hides, hits it, whereas Carlos has an ability to, you see him trying to bounce some things, cut back some things. But for the most part, it's not like one guy goes in and you sort of throw out the whole playbook. It's not one of those things. They're both complementary of each other.

On 49ers using multiple looks:

Yea, they do. They give you a lot of their personnel. Against the Cardinals, I think they went 12 GG, which means they put two O tackles at tight end positions, and then decided to run crack toss. They'll give you formations where they have 22 G, where it's an O lineman in there. 13 GG, and you know there's just places where they put extra o-linemen in for tight ends in the game, and they want to run the ball. Kind of say, hey, here's what we're going to do, we're going to run it, try and stop it. And they do that from multiple different looks. It's just one of those things where you have ask yourself, what schemes do they like? Because you can't say, "out of this personnel they like this, out of this personnel they like that". You have to say, conceptually, what plays do they like to run over and over out of different looks. Where some teams, like last week the Eagles, they're 12 or 11. So, 11 you like to run these plays, 12 you like to run these. I think we had maybe 9 or 10 personnel groupings, and you see similar runs showing up on all of them. You have to take what you can get when you're studying these guys, and know at the end of the day, they're coming downhill, and they want to see if you can stop them.

On Gore's long runs without being touched:

I think they have very good blocking schemes, run-wise. They change them up week-to-week, depending on the looks that they get. I think they're well-coached. I also think they do so much shifting and motioning, it gets defenders to have bad eyes at times. When a lot of things start happening in front of you, you have to make sure, hey, what are my keys? At the end of the play, before we face the hut, what are my keys, what am I looking at. And I think sometimes you see on film that at the end of the game, if guys aren't still honed in on what their keys are, they can start chasing ghosts. So it's a combination of those things, but I believe they are well-coached, they have a great scheme. Same thing with Philadelphia. I mean there were some plays against Philadelphia where Frank's not touched until he's 10 yards downfield, and I think that's a credit to a couple different things. And gosh, there's a lot of plays where Frank breaks tackles and does what he does.

On Gore's vision:

He has great vision. That's a great point. He has phenomenal vision. As a linebacker, what you got to do is, you have to pace the ball and cancel gaps. Trust me, it looks on power, heck, a lot of times on the power plays, it looks like there's no room in there. But he's patient, gets low and kind of squeaks through these little holes. And he knows, ‘Hey, if there's only an arm in there, I can go through an arm.' He knows that, and he'll go right through it. It makes you be disciplined, and say, ‘I can't just assume that because it doesn't look open that he's not going there.' You have to be patient as a linebacker and pace the ball.

On Bruce Miller:

I think Bruce is very versatile. I think he's gotten better as he's played there. The ball follows him a whole lot. And whether that's straight iso plays up the middle, or whether it's him getting outside on the edge. You see him catching the football as well, he's very versatile for them, and I think he does a lot for them. I think also, their tight ends, their multiple tight end packages they use, a lot of those guys do multiple different things for them. They're very versatile players, with blocking, receiving. It just makes you have to have great vision. you have to get downhill and attack. You have to try to use your hat in hand and get off blocks, but a lot of times Bruce takes you to the ball, and when he gets to the point of attack, he's a good football player. I think he springs Frank on a lot of runs as well.

On Colin Kaepernick from last year to this year:

The thing about Colin is he has great awareness of what he needs to do to get first downs for his football team. He's throwing more balls across the middle than he has, maybe, in the past. In the past you used to be able to look for Colin to throw sevens (corner route) and things outside that are kinda pitch-and-catch things. But heck, right now you see him when he's scrambling, he's very good at situational awareness. What I mean by that is, 'Hey, it's third and 2 to 6, OK, my first read isn't open, well I know that I'm fast, and so I can get the first down with my legs.' On other plays, heck, the Philadelphia play where he throws across the field to Frank Gore, you see his awareness for where his escape guys are, his check downs. That's better than maybe it has been in the past. He seems to be finding the third read better than he has in the past. Before you could say, he's going to one read, maybe two, and if not, he's taking off. There are some where you can really see that he's finding the third and fourth guy, so he's grown a little bit. I think that's a good thing for them. We gotta be disciplined. We have to be able to try and keep him in the pocket, not let him get outside. That's what every defense in the NFL says when they play him. But we have to try and execute that, and try and get after him a little bit. It's easier said than done.

On lack of sacks for Rams:

We'd be lying if we said it wasn't a concern. It's something that we talk about, we talk about effecting the quarterback. I know last week we had a lot of QB hits. And that's more than just rush. When you get sacks, it's rush and coverage. You look last week against Philly, there are a couple plays where we're draped all over Foles, and he throws it and we got guys in coverage, in man coverage, that don't keep their eyes. You gotta have great eyes when QBs start moving around. Especially with a guy who is way more athletic in Colin Kaepernick. If he starts scrambling around and you're in man coverage, you gotta find your guy and keep your eyes locked on him because they're gonna uncover. They're not just going to stay plastered with you. Quarterback's not throwing you the ball. A couple of those plays if our guys just keep their eyes on their man, and make the guy hold it a little bit, those are sacks vs. QB hits. And a lot of them, I think two of them ended up in pass interferences, and the other one or two were completions downfield for explosive passes. We need to do a better job in coverage to allow that one more half second to get the guys down. And that always goes together. I think if you asked our whole defense, ‘hey, we have one sack after four ball games this year,' we'd be disappointed, and we are. That's way below our expectations. We're trying to figure it out, but it's way more than the rush. Rush and coverage go hand in hand when it comes to things like that.