Did you get any good tips from Kenny Chesney yesterday?
“Kenny was a wide receiver in high school. He said he liked the quick out better than he liked going inside, so keep the receivers out of the middle.”
Speaking of inside, what do you look for in a slot receiver? What are the qualities that you seek?
“Well, the number one quality is how can he win in one-on-one situations. And there’s big guys that do it kind of because they can outmuscle you. Sometimes, the nickel slot corners in this league are smaller, so sometimes it’s beneficial to have a big guy and we’ve had success with big guys in the past. Or, if you’re a young guy, not a young guy, a smaller guy, can you separate. It’s really the ability to operate in the middle of the field. It’s a different view than a normal receiver position, because most receivers play outside and it’s really them in the corner all the time. The ability to negotiate traffic. Have an understanding of zone. Have a really, really good spatial understanding of zone coverages. Also, the ability to beat one-on-one coverage.
Would you say the slot position is the most cerebral position of all the positions in your offense?
“I don’t want to insult the outside guys, but it is a different view in there and I think it takes a combination. It’s kind of what the tight ends see all the time. They do have to beat one-on-one coverage, because a lot of teams play pure man across the board with the safety help over the top. But, you also have to learn the nuances of the zone, so there’s a little bit more learning I think going inside as a slot receiver.”
So what strikes you about WR Bruce Ellington in that role?
“I think the first thing with Bruce, and it relates to he’s got his background as a basketball player. So, he understands spacing, he understands how to attack a zone, he understands where the soft parts of a zone are. There’s a correlation between guys who played basketball or have a basketball background and then kind of understanding how to operate in there. So, I think he’s got a real good feel for working in the slot.”
What about WR Bryce Treggs, you watched him at Cal right? Did he stand out to you during that workout as someone who could work out here?
“He did because I think he’s got great short-area quickness, to go along with some long speed. He can really run and stretch a defense. He has the ability to kind of separate inside in there just because of his short-area quickness. He was a guy that we felt would fit in the mold. He’s a lot similarly built, similarly sized to Bruce. They both kind of have the same qualities in there.”
How come you don’t have any of your bigger wide receivers working out of the slot right now? Will that happen over time?
“Maybe over time, but I think when we first got going, it’s let’s get guys kind of slotted, because you’ve got ‘X’ amount of reps. So, to put four or five guys in there, they’re not going to get as many reps. When you’re in 11-personnel they get all the work, but if you go to two tight ends, those slot receivers are off the field. So, when you start to get into some different personnel groupings, you’ve got to be mindful of how many reps you have that can go to that inside receiver. It’s a combination of Bruce, [WR] DeAndrew [White], Bryce and then the tight ends, so there really aren’t a ton of reps to distribute to the other guys right now. As you get going, then you make the cut to 75 and then you make the cut to 53, then really all five guys have to have an understanding of how that inside position operates.”
You’re obviously very familiar with DL DeForest Buckner, but what did he do in the first few days of camp to earn a promotion to first-team reps?
“There aren’t promotions, it’s just we’re just rolling people. And I know [defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil] Jimmy is kind of experimenting with a lot of different things over there and who’s going to be our inside pass rushers, outside pass rushers, whether we’re in a four-down scheme or whether we’re in a three-down scheme. He’s picked up things very quickly. There’s a lot of things terminology-wise that jives with what we did when we were at Oregon with DeForest. But, who’s running with what group right now really isn’t a big deal.”
Where has he changed the most since you worked with him in college?
“He’s grown. That’s the biggest thing. When we first got him, he actually lined up when we first got him at Oregon at outside linebacker for us and then eventually grew into a 305-310 pound defensive lineman. So, just how big he is physically and just that growth and I still think he’s got a little bit more to grow, but just physically how much bigger he’s gotten since I first saw him as a freshman.”
You’re a week into camp now. Where are you guys in the installation process and kind of what’s next coming up?
“We still have to do a lot of just game situations. And as you see us now, we’re going into more calling periods. So, we’re on the sidelines, we’re actually playing a game. Not a game, an entire game, but for a series. We’ve been down in the redzone a few times. We’ve had a couple two-minute situations so far, but we’ll continue to, really the situational awareness is what you’re trying to get as you start to get into week two, because a week from today we’re actually playing a game. So, getting those guys adjusted to what it’s like, how to deal with different scenarios that will come up during the game, whether it be redzone, whether it be coming out, whether it be two-minute situations, whether it be four-minute situations at the end of the game when you’re trying to work the clock. So, really a lot more situational work as we get going this week.”
RB Carlos Hyde said his biggest goal or number one goal this year is to stay healthy. Obviously, some of that might be out of his control, but based on what you know about his past, is he doing anything differently this year as far as taking care of his body just to ensure that he can play 16 games?
“He’s been very diligent in terms of how he approached this season, but there are some things that are out of people’s control. I don’t know if there’s any protocol out there that you can work on to prevent a broken bone. There’s certain injuries that I think everybody can work very hard on and those are the soft-tissue injuries, keeping yourself out of missing time because of a muscle pull or something like that. But, I think some injuries, if you break your arm, you break your arm. There’s not much, unless you tell him to drink a lot of milk. Besides that there’s not a lot that you can do from that standpoint. What he can control in terms of how he approaches it, what his protocols are in terms of working with [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg and with [director of human performance Mark Uyeyama] Uye, he’s done a great job from that standpoint.”
He’s a very physical runner. That’s part of what makes him a very good running back. But, he’s not the first power back you’ve had. Are there subtle tweaks guys can make to their running style or does he need to make any subtle tweaks to his running style?
“I haven’t been around him enough. The only thing I’ve done has been able to just watch him on tape. There’s a physicality to this game. I think it makes him a dangerous weapon in terms of being able to not only make people miss, but to kind of go through and to break arm tackles and to gain that tough yardage when it really looks like there’s nothing there. So, we haven’t done anything or [running backs coach Tom Rathman] Rath hasn’t done anything in terms of telling him to shy away from anything.”
Can you just go through what you and the coaching staff discuss, just in a broad sense, on an off day and what that process is for these guys?
“Well, a lot of it is still catching up. There’s a lot of tape. We film everything. So, a lot of individual periods, technique stuff that I think coaches kind of, when they get the chance to get to their day off which would be like tomorrow, where there’s a lot of film that we catch up on. We’ll always have a personnel meeting, kind of where we are. Are we putting guys in the right position? Where are we from a depth standpoint? How are we kind of working this thing through? A long conversation goes on with Ferg and Uye and the guys that are in strength and conditioning and in the training room. Just where we are from a physical standpoint not only as a team, but by position and as an individual and how are those guys doing? And then just talk a little bit about what we like. We’re still figuring out what the strengths and weaknesses are of this team. So, are we going to feature more of this offensively and defensively? So, some general just football discussions.”
We see the offensive line and OL Trent Brown almost invariably is always lining up next to G Andrew Tiller and T Anthony Davis next to G Joshua Garnett. Is that for continuity sake so that they can learn somebody else, their movement?
“No. It’s not. Again, we’re just still in the rep process as we get moving here. We still have a lot of time before we have to dive into what a depth chart is and who’s going to play what and where we are. So, just trying to get those guys reps. If they happen to be lined up next to the same guy, [T] Joe’s [Staley] been next to [G] Zane [Beadles] a lot, but I wouldn’t read into any of that stuff right now.”
What have you seen from Garnett so far in camp?
“Really sharp. I think he’s got a real good mind from a football standpoint. The other thing with him, he’s a real steady guy out there. There’s not a high, low, or whatever. He’s just very consistent in his approach. He probably acts a little bit older than a typical rookie. He’s real cerebral. He’s got a great understanding of things. If he makes a mistake, he can readily correct it. Sometimes when you’re trying to give him feedback on a play, he already knows what transpired and why he wasn’t successful on that play. So, a lot of fun to coach and obviously comes from a great background playing for [Stanford head coach David Shaw] Dave over at Stanford. They did a lot of different things on the offensive side of the ball and he’s played different positions. He actually played some wing as a freshman. They do a lot of multiple offensive line packages. So, he’s played a lot of different spots. He’s played on the right side and the left side. So, he’s been impressive since he got here, especially because we only really had him for mini-camp. We didn’t have him for the full offseason program because he was still finishing up school there.”
I had a question about the nets, looks like they have wheels during training camp. Is that a new addition or, I’m talking about the nets that mimic defensive linemen with their hands up.
“Oh, OK. I was lost there for a second. I didn’t know if we were kicking field goals or something.”
Well, no. I seem to remember they were on the coach’s backs before.
Now they are on the wheels. Is that a new addition? Was that your brainstorm?
“No. We came up with the ones that were on the shoulder pads and then there’s a company that made the ones on the rollers. So, I just think they move a little quicker. Guys don’t have to stop and put them on and take them off. So, they just showed up one day. They look good. I was good with it, but I didn’t order them. That’s [equipment manager Steve Urbaniak] Urb. Our equipment guy came up with that.”
This is your first time with wheels?
“With wheels. Eventually we’re going to try and get a little hovercraft. See if we can move them around a little bit. But, somebody here in Silicon Valley will invent that for us. So, if they do, tell them to give us a call.”
Did you tell Kenny Chesney that you are looking to sign a wide receiver?
“We did not tell him that. I didn’t want to disappoint him. No, he’s booked for the rest of the month. So, I talked to him. I think he’s going to Foxborough and he’s got something in Tennessee coming up. So, his schedule and our schedule just didn’t match up.”
Have you signed one yet?
“No. We haven’t made any maneuvers. So, we’re still at 90. [WR] Eric’s [Rogers] still on the roster right now.”