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Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick discuss competition, bug men, young receivers

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The 49ers quarterbacks met with the media on Saturday. They were asked about their competition, how the offense is coming along against the defense, and how they deal with Chip Kelly’s big nets. We’ve got full transcripts, and you can watch Gabbert video and Kap video.

QB Blaine Gabbert

Head coach Chip Kelly has used the phrase “repetitive accuracy” a lot with the media when asked what he looks for in a quarterback, that’s the most important aspect. Has that come up in the quarterback room with you guys?

“I think accuracy is one of the most important things that you look at in a quarterback. Ball placement, whether it’s an incompletion or completion, good ball placement is key. Run after the catch is a lot bigger, prevents interceptions and just lets our guys make plays after the catch. So, when we’re watching filming, we kind of look at the ball placement on certain plays.”

Has that been getting progressively better among the quarterbacks as camp’s gone on?

“Yeah, I think the more comfortable we get in the system, you start to focus on the details, the little things. Where you can put certain balls versus certain coverages, certain kind of defensive placement. So, from that standpoint, the more reps we get, you’ll see that consist improvement.”

You got the lion’s share, you got all the first-team reps in the spring. Now, you’re splitting them. Are you finding it, I mean, is it more difficult to get into a rhythm because you’re going between two and one or--?

“No. Reps are reps. You learn quickly in the NFL that reps are like pieces of gold. You’ve got to treat them with a lot of respect and don’t take them for granted. So, any rep you get at practice is crucial. Getting reps with a bunch of different players, a bunch of different guys from the offensive linemen, the receivers, the running backs, the tight ends, builds chemistry, builds relationships with those guys. They kind of know how you operate on the field, how you kind of coach them up. I think the more reps you get with the different guys, it’s just going to help you in the long run.”

Do you remember the last time you went in a huddle?

“Yeah. Yesterday in the walk-thru.”

Does it feel like second nature though to work at this speed now? Are you used to it?

“Yeah. It’s what I did in college. Pretty much every offensive system has a no-huddle kind of section in the playbook, but we just do it a lot more. So, you just have more nonverbal communication. We’re still talking, but we just don’t huddle up, tell the play in the huddle and break. But, there are definitely times when we do huddle. It’s just, you kind of go with the flow.”

Are you competing against QB Colin Kaepernick or are you competing against yourself every day?

“I got out there and compete against everybody. Competing against the defense. Compete against Kap. Compete with the other quarterbacks. But, I’d say I’m pretty internally motivated. I want to go out there and put my best foot forward every day. If each guy on offense, 11 guys can do that and come together as a group, it’s going to be a pretty explosive, high-powered offense. So, from that standpoint, I try and push myself as hard as possible each and every day.”

Understanding you are probably your own toughest critic, how would you assess where you are right now?

“It’s been good. There’s been a lot of great things on film. There’s also been things that we can learn from. But, you’re going to have those in camp. You’re going against a great defense like we have. [Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil] Jimmy O runs a bunch of complex stuff. So, it keeps us on our toes and keeps the offensive line on our toes from a protection standpoint. But, that’s what practice is for. We watch the film, kind of learn from the mistake we made and just apply them to the field the next step.”

Before today, it seemed like the cornerbacks were being really physical with the receivers. Is that what you are expecting? Are you going into the season expecting defenses to try and disrupt your rhythm with press and things like that?

“Yeah. It’s kind of a growing theme, but it’s great work for the wideouts. Seeing press man day in and day out, it just helps them fine tune their craft, helps us get our timing down for man coverage because it is a lot different than free access versus zone. It’s going to do nothing but help us in the long run.”

Didn’t see the practice yesterday, but I did see it two days ago and it seemed like there was a lot of DBs getting a lot of hands on balls and knocking balls away and then not so much today. Is that progress from the offense? Do you think you guys are getting progressively sharper?

“Yeah. It’s just, like I said, the receivers are going to get better running man routes. Going against man technique, we’re going to get better with ball placement because you’ve got to be spot on with ball placement when a DB is high and outside. You’ve got to throw it low and inside. DB’s inside, you’ve got to throw it up and outside shoulder. So, there’s going to be consistent improvement versus that throughout camp, but I know our receivers are doing a tremendous job right now. It’s been a lot of fun to get to work with them and it’s a bummer about [WR] Eric Rogers, but the other guys have got to step up now.”

What do you get out of the teaching periods? How beneficial is that for you in practice to slow things down?

“It’s great. Gives guys a breather. But at the same time, the mental reps are huge. The tempo we go at, we can’t go 100 straight plays in a practice. So, the teach periods, the walk-thrus that we have in the afternoon are crucial for our success from a routes on air standpoint, the blitz period pickup, the run periods, you’ve got to treat them like 11-on-11 reps.”

How do you think WR DeAndre Smelter’s assimilated this training camp after missing all of the las year?

“He’s doing great. Just to see his improvement kind of from that first mini-camp throughout OTAs and that last mini-camp there in June, he’s hitting the ground running here in training camp. He’s getting his legs back underneath him. You forget he was out of football for over a year and that’s tough to come back from. He’s doing a great job. He had a good day yesterday, another great day today. He’s just going to continue to get better and is a lot of fun to work with.”

The contraptions, I don’t know what you call those things that simulate large defensive lineman with their hands up--?

“Oh, the big nets?”

Yeah, the big nets. That’s the term I was looking for. Was that an adjustment initially? Obviously, you’ve been doing that for a while now out here. Is it a good tool?

“Yeah. I think it is, especially going against our defensive line with [DL] Arik [Armstead] and [DL] DeForest [Buckner] inside. Those are some pretty tall dudes. It’s second nature now. You don’t really pay attention to them, but you still have it in the back of your head that you’ve got to get your release point up. It really teaches you to find throwing lanes on check downs, get on top of the ball throwing those shallow crosses or whatnot. So, it’s been a good tool and it also helps the receivers kind of see the ball halfway there. It’s kind of a visual obstruction. So, they’ve got to pick up the ball up through those windows or over the top of the window. It’s been nothing but good so far.”

I’ve seen brooms used before. Have you had anything, before in your football career, had anything like those nets to deal with during practice?

“No, not at all. You’re going to hit them. I mean, I’ve had my fair share of bat downs from the nets, just like all the quarterbacks have. But no, it’s a great tool and it, just like I said, helps you stay on top of your ball, get on top of it and throw down at your receivers in check downs. Just kind of reinforces finding throwing lanes because it’s very rarely that you’re throwing over the top of guys because the defensive linemen are so good now at batting the ball at the line of scrimmage. It just helps with throwing lanes and kind of finding windows.”

Do you think it helps make that throw more realistic because normally there wouldn’t even be anyone there?

“Yeah, totally because in seven-on-seven, you’re going to check down, kind of, it’s like a three-foot ball. But, it makes you slide, find a window. Makes the running backs kind of be on it when they’re finding zone, seeing the quarterback’s eyes. It really helps everybody out.”

QB Colin Kaepernick

How would you characterize your first week of camp so far?

“I think it’s been great. A lot of energy on the field, a lot of excitement. It’s always good to get that first week under your belt getting back. I think the team is doing a great job of having great focus in meetings and taking that and putting it on the practice field. I think that’s shown up quite a bit and being able to make adjustments that we make in meetings and take those to the practice field as well,”

You’re obviously familiar with WR Quinton Patton and WR Torrey Smith and WR Bruce Ellington. How are you developing with some of the more younger receivers, lesser known receivers on the team, how’s that coming along?

“I think it’s been great. The receivers are doing a good job of being very consistent with their routes, knowing what they’re doing and how we’re trying to attack defenses with different plays. That’s showing up on the field and it’s showing up as far as what the quarterbacks are seeing on the field.”

At this point in camp, just one week in, in your experience, is the defense usually ahead of the offense? Is it easier to disrupt your rhythm for a defense at this point, because it’s just hard to get an offensive rhythm going?

“I would say typically defense has the advantage when you start because you’re not game planning for what they are doing. So, they might give you looks that you don’t necessarily install for until you get into a game week. So, there’s some of those things that we have to be able to adjust to on the fly, but I think our offensive line and our receivers have done a great job with that as well as our running backs, being able to pick up different blitzes.”

A couple of days ago during practice, a lot of DBs getting their hands on the balls, knocking balls away. Today, immediately you throw it, Ellington breaks into the clear. There were a lot more completions it looked like today. Can you see that kind of progress coming in the offense?

“Yeah, I think that’s the development of this offense and when we’re installing, getting plays that complement each other and knowing how we want to attack the defense in different ways and I think that showed up today.”

Do you find this all fun and stimulating, all of this, the new kind of outside the box thinking they do now, the offense they are installing here?

“Most definitely. It’s, once again, very similar to what I did in college, but a much more developed version. So, for me a lot of the things are familiar, the passing game-wise. A lot of things are different, but are a lot better than what I’ve experienced in the past. So, it’s very exciting in a lot of different ways.”

Do you feel like physically you’re still playing catchup or are you just more, with your work outs and things like that, just maintaining what you were able to get back during your time off?

“Right now, maintaining. It’s hard to really put weight on and develop while you’re in training camp.”

I had a question about the large nets that kind of simulate defensive linemen with their hands up. Have you, I guess, is that helpful? Obviously, it presents another challenge, but is it helpful for you as a quarterback to have that in practice and have you ever had anything like that before in your college background or your football career?

“I haven’t had nets like that. I’ve had different things to simulate that. I do think it is beneficial in seven-on-seven. It gives the quarterback one more thing to kind of work around instead of dropping back. You know, offense has a little bit more of an advantage seven-on-seven, so it gives us something to work on a little more while we’re doing those drills.”

Have you had brooms in the past?

“Working on brooms. Working on throwing over goalposts, things like that. Different variations, but nothing that we’re able to use during an actual live drill.”

Are you competing against QB Blaine Gabbert or are you competing against yourself every day?

“I’m competing against everybody. I go out there, I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. I’m just out there competing, doing everything I can to make sure every play, I win.”

You’ve been entrenched as the starter the past couple of years out here. Now you’re competing for the job. Is it more challenging to not live and die with every big play or every bad play, knowing that it’s not necessarily your job?

“No. To me, I go out and compete. That’s what you do in the NFL. That’s what you do when you want to win. It doesn’t matter if they say you’re competing or not. It’s a competition. So, I’m treating this no different than I have any other year.”

Does it put more pressure on the reps that you do get knowing that you’re going to be sharing reps with another guy? Does it make each rep you get that much more important?

“Every rep is valuable. This year is no different than any other year. You have to make sure you’re taking advantage of those reps, because those reps are going to carry over to the game. So, you want to make sure you’re forming good habits, so when you get into the game those carry over.”