Assignment-wise, how did everything go last night?
“We were good. I think for the first game, I think there were a lot of positives for us to build upon. I thought our defense played really well. To hold [Los Angeles Rams RB Todd] Gurley who averaged I think 4.8 or 4.9 a carry in his rookie season to 2.7, that was a focus of what we were trying to get accomplished defensively. And then, offensively there was a little bit of inconsistency in some of the drives, but I think overall when you have 28 first downs, we ran for 150-plus yards. We threw the ball 35 times. We didn’t give up a sack. There were some positives to build upon there too.”
Last night you mentioned a couple of QB Blaine Gabbert’s better throws. One of his last ones was to TE Garrett Celek in between two guys. Do you remember that?
“I think it was [TE] Vance [McDonald]”
It was Celek, it was 15-yarder to Celek in-between I think Los Angeles Rams DB Lamarcus Joyner and Los Angeles Rams LB Alec Ogletree.
It’s not a stupid question.
“I thought it was Vance. It’s not a stupid question. It was a hell-of-a throw.”
Yeah. So, OK, we are on the same page.
“Yeah, to the tight end.”
One of the tight ends.
“80-something. It was a heck-of-a throw between two guys in zone coverage. It was actually his third read in the progression, looked outside, had one, two and came back to three right away and then stuck one right in there to the tight end.”
See, you know more about the play than I do. Anyway, sometimes it seems like he’s hesitant to let some of those throws rip and he has the arm. Is that a throw he can make or should make?
“Yeah, he did make it and should make it. We have all the confidence in the world in him. You look at the ball he threw to Vance for the touchdown. He ripped that one in there. He threw a couple to [WR] Torrey [Smith], I mean to [WR] Quinton Patton on the out route where we had some big plays when we needed to get some things generated. Again, first game in our system, understanding what he’s doing. First real live game. There were some real positives that we can build upon with him.”
He’s in an unusual situation because he’s in his sixth year and he has live up to that standard of being that first-round draft pick. But, he’s been in so many systems from Jacksonville and then here as well. Two part question; where do you see him in his development overall as a quarterback who’s in his sixth year being a first rounder and what specifically do you see him making your system and what you need out of him?
“Yeah, I guess for the first part, we don’t put any, where he came from, where they were. We started with him in April, so I can get to the second part of the question is I’ve seen him grow and develop since we got him in April. And, that’s really what we’re concerned with, not what where they were in the past or what their past history was because it’s really inconsequential for all of us is to say, ‘Three years ago in Jacksonville, this happened to him.’ Three years ago we weren’t around him, so I don’t really know what went on nor do we even talk about that. We just talk about his growth and development in what we’re doing and I see him getting better. And, the real thing with quarterbacks, as we’ve always talked about, is practice is not live for the quarterbacks, so it’s a different feeling in the pocket than it is in the game. No team, high school, college, pro, whatever it is, is their quarterback going to get hit in practice. So, it’s a different feeling. So really it’s those, and he had, I think it was 43 snaps in the preseason to build upon and now we’ve got 70-plus snaps here in the first game. So, I think he’s continuing to grow. He kept plays alive, kept drives alive with his feet last night. When people are going to play two-man and kind of run with the receivers and have everybody covered, well then no one’s responsible for the quarterback, so he’s got to do some things to keep things alive and I thought he did that. I think he’s growing and I think we are kind of pleased where he is right now and hopefully we can build upon this last performance.”
Follow up on that real quick though, I know you don’t want to know what he did before, but that can affect a player. I mean he’s been through so many systems. Does that work in his favor?
“Only if you let it. We never talk about it, so that’s maybe a good question for Blaine. I never sit down and say, ‘Hey, you’re a first-round draft pick, how come this--?’
No, I just meant with all of the exposure he’s had in different systems do you see that helping him here?
“Yeah, I think everybody is a byproduct of their experiences. So, the more varied your experiences are the better you are at adapting to something that’s new that’s thrown at you.”
How did the options look on the short-yardage throws early in the first half on I think it was a third-and-short and fourth-and-short when he went to Patton and Torrey Smith? Were there other options that looked better out on the field?
“No, because I think it was mirrored in terms of what we were doing. So, they were kind of run-pass options in terms of either being able to run the ball or throw the ball. I think part of it was our receivers were too wide. Some of the spacing things and their splits should have been tighter for us to execute what we wanted to execute and so I think sometimes that throws Blaine off a little bit was that he’s expecting the receivers to be lined up five yards closer than they are and now they are five yards wider than they are. So, it’s just getting everybody on the same page kind of.”
Blaine was saying last night that he thought maybe there were a couple of times he should have gotten down a little bit earlier. Just what do you tell your quarterbacks about kind of finding that balance?
“Yeah, there was just one on the one he scrambled, and I don’t think he saw the DB. He made the safety miss and then all of a sudden, it was actually [Los Angeles Rams LB/S] Mark Barron who came back and was chasing the tight end in man coverage. We tell him the same thing all the time; it’s touchdown, first down, get down. We don’t want our quarterbacks to take hits. We want them to get down. And I thought he did a good job except for that one hit that he took from the linebacker.”
It seems like with all your different personnel you can trot out there defensively, it gives you guys a lot of versatility in terms of how you match up with other teams. How much of a luxury is that for you and going forward how much do you expect to be malleable with your schemes?
“A lot of it’s just matching what the offense gives you and I do think we do have some depth. I think that’s a good point. And we were also down two. So, usually we have [CB] Chris Davis who was unavailable to us because of injury and [CB Keith] Reaser who was unavailable to us because of injury. So, we had two DBs that we normally would have, that at least one of them would have been up on game day. So we’d like to carry an extra DB on game day and that gives us even some more versatility. But, I think because of the safety situation we have with [S Jaquiski] Tartt and [S Eric] Reid and [S Antoine] Bethea and then when you add in [CB] Rashard [Robinson], so we had a third corner. We have a third safety. I think we can be a little bit adjustable and it helps because we really only have three outside linebackers right now with [LB] Aaron [Lynch] being out now for the next three games. It helps when you’re trying to match up and it’s a matchup league. If people want to go big, we have the personnel to play big against you. But, if you’re going to go little, I think we can match up with you when you go little.”
Rashard, I don’t think he was targeted in the passing game. Was that a product of his coverage or was that kind of--?
“He wasn’t. No, they just knew. They just said, ‘Hey, he’s a rookie out there. He’s the best in the league, so we aren’t going to throw on him.’ No, it was just kind of how it worked out. I don’t think they specifically stayed away from him for any reason, but when he was out there he just didn’t have the ball thrown his way. He was solid in coverage and was close in everything he had to do, so if they did throw it, it would have probably been a contested throw. But, I don’t think there was a game plan decision on their part, ‘Hey, let’s stay away from the young rookie.”
You have a busy week this week and you’ll be flying east. Have you guys done any pre-work on Carolina to get ready for this week?
“Yeah, we always do a 10-day advance to make sure all of our games are broken down. They played Denver on Thursday night, so there wasn’t going to be a game coming in on Sunday. So, all of our breakdowns were done and some of our coaches took the timeSunday afternoon and Monday to get a jump-start on just watching the film, so that when we get into the game planning it’s not the first time we saw them isn’t today. It’s just the same thing I think everybody does when you have a Monday night game. You know you’re going to be short, but you can steal a little bit of film prep time in the days before, because those are long days. Sunday is a long day for us and Monday is a long day for us because we didn’t play until seven o’clock last night. I think our coaches are all caught up from a film standpoint.”
In that scenario where you play a Monday night game and then have a cross-country trip right afterwards, do you do anything different this week than you would in a simpler scenario?
“No, we have it all worked out. We’re going to leave on Friday after training and then get there some time Friday evening and then get up and practice on Saturday in Carolina. But, you know your schedule in April, so we’ve got everything planned out accordingly. It’s just the way the league is. Whenever you play a Monday game, you’re going to have a short week and at some point in time, I think coming up here in a couple weeks, we’re going to play a game on a Thursday. It is what it is.”
Do you guys hold your day before walk-thrus in the stadium or do you go find a high school or college field nearby?
“Yeah, we’ll go to a high school or college field nearby.”
Is OL Anthony Davis back to being just exclusively a tackle?
“He’s got to be able to play everything just like anybody who’s a backup. We only have two guys up, so if both guards went down last night, he’s going to have to go in at guard. He’s with [OL] Trent [Brown] and [T] Joe [Staley] at tackle. That’s his main position for us, but I think once you’re not in the starting lineup you’ve got to be versatile. [C] Marcus Martin is our backup center, but when [G Andrew] Tiller was out for a couple plays, Marcus went in and played guard. So, you’ve got to be able to, you usually try to carry in your seven, the backup’s, you have a center-guard guy and you have a guard-tackle guy.”
After watching the tape, how would you characterize the offensive line’s performance?
“I thought they did a good job overall for their first full-time together as a unit. Again, they kind of played piecemeal. Sometimes they were in when we were in in the preseason. Again, it was probably somewhere near 40-some-odd snaps with the ones not playing in that last preseason game. Against that front and against someone like [Los Angeles Rams DT] Aaron Donald and [Los Angeles Rams DE] Robert Quinn, you’ve got two All-Pro football players in that defensive front. Ogletree is an outstanding middle linebacker. We talked about Barron’s ability to run sideline-to-sideline. [Los Angeles Rams DT Michael] Brockers is a good player. [Los Angeles Rams DE William] Hayes is a good player. So, I thought overall they held up pretty good against a pretty good group.”
There’s so much obvious national attention that is going to be on you guys and it’s actually been theorized that it can open dialogue and can actually help a team because you guys have that kind of trust within the locker room to talk about things that are current in society. Is there validity to that for a team?
“Yeah. I think any time that you have a group that communicates really well there’s a trust level that’s developed between the players and each other, between the player and the coaches and between the coaches and coaches. Again, we’ve had the conversation about this. There hasn’t been any issues in our locker room. I think it was because it was handled right away at the beginning of it and I think Colin did a very good job articulating to the rest of the guys in the locker room of what his feelings were and why he is doing what he is doing. And, I think our guys understand and recognize that that’s his right as a citizen to do what he’s doing. But, when we come to work here, and I’ll give Colin the most credit is, when he comes to work here it’s about football. Last week was about preparing for the Rams. This week it’s about preparing for the Panthers. It’s not like we are having long drawn out conversations. We are really efficient with our time, so when we’re here we’ve got to work on football and that’s what we’re doing while we’re here.”
You guys just went up against a versatile player in Mark Barron who is a linebacker/safety kind of a tweener. You guys are going up against another one in Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis who played free safety in college. How does going up against a player like Barron help you prepare for going up against Davis?
“They are different. I think Thomas is one of the best linebackers in the NFL and you put him and [Carolina Panthers LB Mark] Kuechly together that may be the best tandem that we’ll face. And, Thomas has played so many snaps at linebacker, I know he played safety in college, but he’s a linebacker and a very, very, very good linebacker and has proven that. The one thing about both him and Luke is just their speed. Not only play-speed, but their ability to key and diagnose plays and recognize what’s going on. You’re not going to fool those guys very much and you better make sure when you’re getting up to block them at the second level that you’re squared up and ready to go, because they can get off a block so well and get to the football. So, it’s going to be a big test for us going against those two. That’s right up there. I don’t know if it’s the best, I’m not a comparison guy, but that’s going to be as good a group as we’ll face at linebacker.”
When it came to your guy’s defense, when you’re watching the film, were there one or two plays that really jumped out at you that you may not have seen on the field that they executed well? I know there were a lot, so were there one or two?
“No, there weren’t. I can’t think one off the top of my head that I would say ‘Play 14 or play 18.’ The one thing about the overall group is that just the energy that I think we played with in all phases, I think it really showed. It’s fun coaching this group because they love playing football and they want to play football and they all want to be on the field and you can see that. There was a real good energy on our sideline last night and for us to play against the defending NFC champs, we’re going to have to bring that same energy when we go to Carolina this week.”
Do you think some of that has to do with so many different guys that are contributing on the defense that guys have to stay really active on the calls because they might be going in for the next snap?
“Yeah, and that’s part of what our plan is if you have guys up on game day then they are going to play and I think our players understand that. We’re going to try to use our roster because of the type of offense and defense we play. We kind of thrive off each other. So, you’re going to bring 46 guys on game day. We’re going to play them. We’re going to play as many as we can and I think that also keeps you fresh in the long run. So, if you have the ability to rotate on the D-Line and now start to get our secondary guys involved and start to distribute the snaps a little bit throughout everybody, then now more guys are contributing. The more guys that are contributing, the more guys that are invested into what you guys are doing out there.”
What do you stress most this week in regards to containing Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton?
“I think it takes 11. He’s a very rare athlete in that there aren’t many people that are that accurate throwing the football, that can run as well as he can run and have that size. So, very rarely does the first person get Cam to the ground. If he is running the ball, we have to gang tackle. We’re going to have to get everybody running to the football and swarm him. They’ve got a unique scheme, because [Carolina Panthers RB] Jonathon Stewart is an outstanding running back. So, you can’t just focus on Cam because you’re going to get hurt in the run game by Jonathon. But, you also have to be worried about Cam running the ball also on designed quarterback runs and keepers. And, he can sit back there and throw it. Sometimes you’ve got a guy that’s just a runner or you’ve got a guy that’s just a thrower, it’s easy to kind of game plan for those guys. A guy that’s like Cam, and that’s why he was the MVP last year, is because he can do it all. And, not only can he do it all and he maybe the biggest quarterback in the league doing it. So, it’s going to take all 11 guys getting around him on every play for us to win this battle from a defensive standpoint.
Last year, the defense was considerably, didn’t play at the same level on the road as it did here. I’m wondering, have you needed to address that and was the early practice schedule during training camp part of that?
“We haven’t addressed anything that went on with last year’s team on what they did here or what they did there just because we weren’t here. So, it would be very presumptuous of me to think I know why this happened or why this didn’t happen. Plus we don’t have enough time to address, what we’re worried about is addressing now as opposed to addressing what went on last year. So, part of us practicing in the morning is just that, science. Your body releases HGH at the most between nine and 11. So, we should be out on the field between nine and 11.”
So, you don’t want your bodies to adjust to east coast time?
“We do, but he asked me if the byproduct of us practicing in the morning, we’ve always practiced in the morning. I practiced in the morning when we were at Oregon. I practiced in the morning when we were in Philadelphia and part of that is because of the science aspect of it. The fact that it will matchup with us going to the east coast is a byproduct of that, not the reason we do that.”
It’s possible I could have misinterpreted this last night. Possible. You seemed to maybe allude to the fact that it would have been a lot for Anthony given that he’s changing positions to play at that position shortly after him making the move. If I’ve got that right, is there still an idea that he could be a starting right guard for this team?
“The idea is as we’re moving forward, we have a group right now, but that can change. So, everybody’s got to be able to play anywhere. If you’re not the starter, Joe Staley can concentrate on playing left tackle because Joe Staley’s the starting left tackle. If you’re not in the top five on our offensive line, then you’ve got to be able to be versatile and play everywhere just because of how it’s going to express itself. That’s just the nature of this deal. It’s no different than if you’re [CB] Dontae Johnson and he’s cross-training, playing safety and playing corner and then depends on what goes on, he’s going to have to go in the game depending on an injury at either or. So, again, when we’re up on game day, it’s always scary, I don’t know if people really realize we dress seven offensive linemen. Everybody else in the NFL doesn’t. We dress seven O-Linemen for a game. That’s kind of one of the things when you’re coming from college, you’ve got 15 O-Linemen dressed. You can get your first group, your second group and your third group. But, when you’re addressing seven, really what you’re looking for is you’ve got a center-guard, which is what Marcus was and then you’ve got a guard-tackle, which is what Anthony was. Obviously, his position is tackle, but if, again, if both guards didn’t play last night or for some reason Tiller went out for two plays and Marcus is in the game and [G Zane] Beadles goes out the next play, then Anthony’s got to go in at guard because that’s the only guys we have left at that point in time.”
How is G Joshua Garnett doing? Obviously, he was inactive. People look at a first round pick being inactive and think what’s going on there?
“Josh is extremely close and is as close to playing as he is to being inactive just because we’re dressing seven. The difference between Josh Garnett and Marcus Martin right now is that Marcus Martin can play center and guard where Josh has just been exclusively trained at guard just because he just got here. So, our emergency center after Marcus was Beadles. Beadles has taken minimum snaps there, just like our emergency quarterback is [TE] Blake Bell. If we’re down to our third center or our third quarterback, we’re going to be drastically different just from a practice standpoint. You don’t get a lot of reps for all those guys. But, Josh is a lot closer. I think people see, ‘Well, he was inactive.’ But, he’s pushing to be a starter. The issue is we can’t dress him because when we dress seven, he doesn’t have the center background to be able to go in there and be the center. So, it’s just one of those deals where the numbers, when you’re only dressing 46 on game day then you’ve really got to kind of cut someone and that’s really the decision we made going into this game. That doesn’t mean later on down the road that that’s not going to change. It’s just, going into this specific game, dressing seven, we were going to dress Marcus and Anthony.”
Is it safe to say that between Monday and Saturday, he’s the backup left guard but on Sundays, he’s--?
“Yeah. That’s a really good point. If we had an injury and we knew right now that one of our guys wasn’t going to play next week, then that would be a discussion is are we going to now start Josh because Marcus is really a center, but he’s got to in at guard because of what we’re putting up on game day.”
Is Tiller’s foot injury OK?
“Yeah. He’s fine. He went back in and didn’t have any ill effects. So, have nothing to report on him. I anticipate he should be ready to go this week.”