The San Francisco 49ers had media availability on Thursday, and special teams coach Thomas McGaughey was the coach on hand to answer questions. I don't recall Brad Seely ever speaking with the media during his time with the 49ers, and hearing from the special teams coach can be kind of fascinating. He is able to get into the skills required of players, and how players are performing in the different units.
We'll have a full transcript later, but in the meantime, I thought I would mention his specific comments about L.J. McCray. The 49ers signed McCray a year ago as an undrafted free agent, and he proceeded to make the team out of training camp. He played almost exclusively on special teams, although I think he might have gotten some defensive snaps during the blowout loss to the Denver Broncos.
He is back this year, and competing for more opportunities. When asked what he likes about McCray, McGaughey talked about his passion, power, explosive play, and the ability to play with great leverage. Over the weekend, Tomsula was asked about McCray's performance against the Texans:
I tell you, he was running around. That one hit got everybody's attention, didn't it? L.J. is really, he's done a good job on special teams since he's been here. I think he can be a really, really, really good special teams player. And some things on defense, he's cleaning up, he's working at. And again, you come from some of the smaller schools, not to down the coaching, I mean that's the last thing I'd do. Just what you see in terms of the different patterns and reads, and the different coverages, so he's been doing a lot of learning. And he's been working real hard at it.
McCray had the big hit, but I think he still has some work to do if he wants to develop into a reserve safety role. After Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea, Craig Dahl is the primary backup safety. McCray, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward are all listed on the safety depth chart as well. If Tramaine Brock ends up securing the slot role, I could see Ward potentially securing the reserve role. Of course, the team might also be content hanging on to Craig Dahl for one more year.
In the meantime, all signs point up for McCray again making the roster in a special teams role. We'll see this weekend and the next two weeks how the safety roles shake out.