What are you going to need to see from the passing game for it to be more efficient?
“It’s a combination of things. I think, we had five drops and I think it’s imperative that we do a better job catching the football and at the same time there’s some throws we need to be a little bit more accurate on. So, it’s a combination of those guys getting on the same page. We do have some new guys in there that have only been here for a short amount of time. So, I think it’s about developing chemistry and kind of getting everybody on the same page. It’s a work in progress. We’ve been good in the protection department, but we can be better in the protection department also. Part of it goes hand-in-hand with our run game too. We didn’t run the ball very well and when you’re running the ball well your play-action pass and those things can kind of develop and come off of that. I think it’s the offense as a whole. We just need to get in sync. We need to continue to practice together, play together and get a feel for where everybody is supposed to be, when we’re supposed to be there.”
You mentioned the running game yesterday with their defensive tackles winning that battle along the interior. Is that what the film showed you?
“Yeah, there were times that, [Carolina Panthers DT] Kawann Short is a good player and so is [Carolina Panthers DT] Star Lotulelei, so trying to get the appropriate movement on them, and I think sometimes they can occupy two offensive linemen and when they do that it allows [Carolina Panthers LB Luke] Kuechly and [Carolina Panthers LB Thomas] Davis to run free a little bit. Sometimes we just, timing-wise, we weren’t synced up in terms of our double teams up to the linebackers. Maybe we were off a little bit too quick because we were so concerned with playing linebackers like that, that now we’re not in position to move the three-technique or the one-technique like we wanted to move them.”
Is the quarterback position still a competition right now?
“I think everything is, but you still have to go through and like I said, it’s about our whole offense getting a rhythm in terms of where we are and what we’re trying to get accomplished. But, we’ve got confidence in [QB] Blaine [Gabbert] and I think he’s done some really nice things for us.”
When you say Blaine is your starter, he’s your starter for the duration or is it week-to-week?
“He’s our starter and I’ve got a lot of confidence in Blaine. So, we’re not thinking or talking about not having Blaine in there. It’s about everybody on offense playing better right now.”
Coming back to the run game, it averaged only 2.5-yards per carry. What’s your alternative or counter when your base run game isn’t working?
“Well, again, it’s sometimes you’ve got to loosen them up a little bit with the passing game. So, if you’re starting to get some edge pressure, which we did, we needed to get the ball distributed outside a little bit better. Throw the ball a little bit more. Maybe throw the ball a little bit more on first down to kind of loosen them up a little bit to keep them out of some of the run blitzes that they’re trying to get you and hold you accountable for. So, we need to get into the pass game a little bit more and maybe a little bit earlier just to kind of loosen them up a little bit. The two of them have to go hand-in-hand and once we can get that first first-down, we kind of stay on track and then we start moving the group. It’s about being consistent when we do throw the ball and make sure it’s an accurate throw. If it is an accurate throw, we’ve got to make sure we catch it. So, it’s a combination of, those two things I really believe and I’ve always believed that the passing game and the running game kind of go hand-in-hand. You can’t be all one or all the other, especially in this league because people are too good. If you’re just a, ‘We can’t run the ball at all and we’re going to throw it every down,’ you’re not going to be very successful or vice versa. ‘We’re just going to run it every down and pound you.’ Then they’re going to make sure that you pay because they’re not going to allow that. They’re going to get an extra guy in the box. They’re going to play more people down closer to the football and when they do that then your outside receivers and your slot receivers and your tight ends have to become viable options for you.”
Have you worked G Joshua Garnett on the right side at all? Is he--?
“Yeah, we have. The one thing with Josh, and he’s coming along, but he missed all of the spring. So, our real first, I think he had three days in the spring and that was it and then we got him in and we started in August. He’s still coming along. He’s played multiple positions. He’s been the backup on the left side. We started to get him some reps on the right side. For a young player to flip-flop sides, to do things from a technique standpoint, he’s obviously sharp, has done some things from a mental standpoint where he has an understanding of what we’re doing, but now it’s just the technique things and making sure you’re on point. When you’re going against, first week it was [Los Angeles Rams DT] Aaron Donald, second week it’s Kawann Short. You’ve got some pretty good three-techniques there to get matched up and you’re going to leave your guard in one-on-one situations. You want to make sure you’re being fair to him too. He will get some reps there again this week. He got some there last week and we’ll continue to see how he develops, but I’m encouraged with where he is going, but we’re not just going to throw him out there to the wolves right now.”
With concussions playing a role the last time OL Anthony Davis stepped away, now that he has another one, is there concern for him?
“Yeah, I have not had a chance to talk to A.D. since this occurred. It happened in Thursday’s training session and then Friday morning we were notified that he wasn’t going to travel with us. So, I haven’t talked to him. I haven’t seen A.D. since Thursday, so we’ll see where he is with it and what’s going on. And obviously, he’ll go into the league concussion protocol and we’ll go through all the process there. There’s a system in place to make sure that he’s not going to be put in harm’s way, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Were you guys padded up on Thursday?
“Yeah, we were in padded practice on Thursday. That was our one padded practice of the week.”
You talked about the good things Blaine has done and the things he needs to do better. What steps does he need to take to sort of get to where you--?
“I think there’s a comfort level with our offense in terms of just more reps and more time with the receivers. More time with understanding exactly where they’re going to be. [WR] Jeremy Kerley has been here for three weeks. You have some guys who are integral in terms of what we’re doing. Making sure that we’re on the same page where Blaine may have thought he was going to break out versus that coverage where Jeremy thought it was break in versus that coverage. Just trying to get on the same page. You look at the quarterbacks that are successful in this league, they’ve all been in the same system with the same group of people for a long time. [Carolina Panthers QB] Cam [Newton] is a great example of that. You look at how he’s matured and turned into an MVP, but he’s benefitted, [Carolina Panthers head coach] Ron [Rivera] has been there the whole time that Cam’s been there. [Carolina Panthers TE Greg] Olsen has been there with him. He’s got a bunch of guys that they’re on the same page. When you’ve got good teams it’s usually they’ve got some experience together and that’s not something that you can say, ‘Hey, here’s the play, run it.’ There’s a lot of subtleties and nuances in terms of how you’re doing things. It’s just a matter of getting more reps and getting those guys more comfortable in terms of what we’re doing.”
RB Carlos Hyde was a little upset at himself yesterday saying he wasn’t patient in the run game. Is that maybe just the protections that didn’t account for those inside linebackers like he said or has that kind of been his development?
“I don’t know. I’m unsure of what Carlos said because I didn’t read up on anything there. But, the one thing about this group is I think they all hold themselves accountable. It’s a group that doesn’t finger point and doesn’t say, ‘Hey, it was his fault or that guys fault. It’s not my fault.’ Everybody owns kind of what goes on when we win a game and everybody owns what goes on when we lose a game. It’s encouraging, like you said, if that’s how he feels. We’ll go through, we’ve got a process that we go through tomorrow morning in terms of our review and revision of the film and then pointing out kind of what you see. What should transpire, how this thing should develop, what it should look like and then we’ll move forward. You know, I think that’s what good teams do. They evaluate themselves. They’re not pointing fingers. They’re taking ownership in terms of what’s going on out there.”
The defensive backs seemed to struggle in man coverage yesterday. Do you need to mix in more zone coverages to help them out?
“Well, I think we did. We actually played more zone than we played man when you go back and look at the film. And at times, I think our leverage in man at times weren’t exactly where we should be. And then some other times, they made some plays and you’ve got to at times tip your hat. That catch that [Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin] Benjamin had, we were in a zero blitz. Pressure’s coming in on Cam, he throws it, [DB] Jimmie Ward’s as good as he can be in coverage and actually tips the ball twice and then Benjamin catches it on his back and it’s a heck-of-a job by Kelvin. On the corner post that Olsen ran for the big touchdown, they had never shown that before. They had always shown corner, corner, corner. [S] Antoine [Bethea] tried to jump it. Olsen’s a very talented player. He made a great move on the corner and then broke it back to the post. So, good play call by them, good execution by them too. So, sometimes I don’t think you just say, ‘Well, we can’t play man.’ You know, our guys are right there at times and a lot of them are contested catches. We’ve just got to come down and make the play. We had the long play on the sideline to [Carolina Panthers WR Ted] Ginn [Jr.] that they ruled inbounds as he went out of bounds and then dropped the ball. So, you know it’s not like, sometimes I think when you look at that and just see, say, ‘Hey, guys are running free by five yards. What are we doing here?’ I think our guys are in position to make plays and they made, obviously, made more plays than we did yesterday.”
You got decent pressure in the opener. Yesterday, not so much. What did you see? Was it Cam just basically stepping out of trouble or did you get enough push up front?
“There are times when we got really good push and then all of sudden he keeps things alive with his legs, you know, and scrambles out of it. That’s the nature of playing someone like him because not only is he athletic as is, he’s just such a big guy. He’s hard to bring down even when you have a free rusher on him. You know, we had a free rusher on him once, I think [DL] Arik [Armstead] broke through on a blitz. He just sidesteps to the other side and runs down the sideline and gets a first down out of it. I would say probably 30 of the other 32 quarterbacks in the league are sacked in that situation or throwing the ball hot. So, it’s a little bit to him. We were also aware of his ability to move. So, it’s more of collapsing the pocket and pushing the pocket around him than kind of getting on different levels because when you get on different levels, when you have a quarterback like that, he hurts you even more by using his feet to either A, run for it, or to scramble and keep things alive and then you’ve got to stay in coverage for a lot longer time. So, obviously, it’s easier to rush when we rushed against [Los Angeles Rams QB] Case [Keenum] than it is against Cam. So, you’ve got to understand that when you’re the guys rushing the quarterback.”
How is Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson different? You’re going to have to contain with Wilson the same?
“Yeah, and that’s why I said 30 out of the 32. I think Russell is as dynamic as it is in terms of keeping things alive with his feet. And he’s always looking for the big play. A lot of times with him, the big play isn’t the run. He’ll keep the play alive and just keep going until someone can get open downfield and he’s always looking to throw the ball down the field. So, it’s something we’re going to have to be aware of this week. There’s a little bit of size discrepancy between the two of them, but in terms of being active in the pocket, keeping things alive, they’re both very similar from that standpoint.”
Is there an update on LB Ray-Ray Armstrong yet?
“I have not met with the trainers yet. So, I’ll do that after this meeting. But, I haven’t heard anything on Ray-Ray so far.”
What did you learn about this defense as a whole after watching the video? I mean, obviously a dramatic difference from Week 1 to Week 2 and some of that’s the opponent, no doubt. But, after watching it sort of as a whole, why were you guys not as effective yesterday?
“The biggest disappointing thing was the run game. We had been good at the run game in the week before and then this week, we just didn’t make some plays when we had to make some plays. You know, they ran a zone-option where we had a corner that should have been sitting out in the flat and the ball’s pitched right to him but he gets caught inside with bad eyes and the ball’s down the sideline for a 40-yard gain. So, it was really those explosive plays. Those seven plays of 20-plus that got us. Two of those pass plays, you know, the long one to Olsen obviously for the touchdown and the long one down the sideline to Ginn hurt us. But, in the run game, there were too many big plays that occurred. Sometimes it’s missed tackles. We had guys in position to make plays but then didn’t tackle, didn’t get him down to the ground. First guy there didn’t get him down to the ground. And then other times, it was just kind of bad eyes where we should have had support but we were looking in the backfield and should have been taking care of their responsibility in those situations.”
Where is QB Colin Kaepernick physically right now? We talked in camp, he was under less weight than he had been.
Is the weight coming back up? Do you see him--?
“It’s coming back up and I think he’s doing a good job in the weight room, but it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. You just don’t go from where he was to, I think his ideal playing weight when you ask Kap is about 225. He’s not going to get to 225 in a week. If you are, it’s not going to be a good 225. You know, it’s about building himself back up and getting himself kind of where he feels, and you can see kind of where he’s comfortable in terms of being able to play. It’s something that he’s working extremely hard at. It’s just, you can’t force that issue. He didn’t lift for, I don’t know how long it was since his operation, but I mean, I think people still forget, he had a thumb, a shoulder and a knee. So, it’s very difficult to, usually if you have a knee, you can lift with your upper body or if you have a shoulder, you can lift with your lower body. He was really out of the weight room for six to eight months. That’s kind of one of the things that, that’s one of his better traits is his work ethic is outstanding. So, he’s working extremely hard on that right now and we’ll continue to see how he goes and how he develops.”
How’s he looking in practice?
“He’s done a nice job in practice. You know, he doesn’t get as many reps as we had when we were in preseason camp when everything was split right down the middle because, again, we talk about Blaine, one of the things with Blaine is we need to get him reps so that he’s comfortable with that group. So, the reps are cut down a little bit for Kap. But, when he’s in there, he’s doing a nice job. He’ll continue to work with [director of human performance Mark Uyeyama] Uye and we’ll continue to work with him when we’re out there during the training sessions.”
Did you ever see him being the scout quarterback or is he--?
“He does both. You know, if we have an opportunity to do that and then it depends on what we’re doing that day. Sometimes, when we have the scouts going against our defense, then our quarterbacks and receivers are working on timing things. So, Kap’s over there with Blaine and [WR] Torrey [Smith] and [WR] Quinton [Patton] and [WR] Jeremy [Kerley] and [TE Garrett] Celek and [TE] Vance [McDonald] you know, trying to make sure we can time some things up route-wise. So, it’s a combination of doing both those things with him right now.”
How much do you work on scramble drills with quarterbacks?
“We work on that every day. Usually, there’s one or two of those plays in there where you’ll tell the guy, ‘Hey, it’s not open.’ Sometimes, you’ve got to script it if it hasn’t occurred or you’ll tell him, ‘Hey, on this one, pull one down and let’s start to work our scramble mechanics.’ But, a lot of times it happens organically just because the nature of the pass rush, obviously, forces the quarterback out of the pocket and then you know, we’re always working on, when the play breaks down, we don’t blow the whistle. We want the play to continue. Number one, our defense has got to learn how to cover downfield and plaster on receivers and then number two, our receivers and our quarterback have to kind of figure, work their scramble rules and their scramble mechanics in terms of getting the ball out.”
So, that’s at every practice though?
“Yeah. Every practice, there’ll be at least one or two that occur.”
What does Colin weigh right now?
“I don’t know. That’s a good question for him. I don’t know exactly. I mean, I haven’t looked at the list. So, I can’t tell you if it’s 214 or 216 or 217.”
He’s getting closer to that?
“Yeah. You can ask him when the locker room’s open.”
Blaine ran a lot more in the opener than he did yesterday. Was that a function of Carolina focusing on that and--?
“Yeah, well, not a function. I just think you’ve got to take what the defense gives you. I think that’s part of what they do. They’re a little bit more of a zone-drop team than a man-drop team. So, their eyes are always focused back on the quarterback in their vision and breaking on the football. A lot of times, when the quarterback takes off on pass plays, when things break down, it’s because they’re playing a lot more man coverage and have their back turned to the quarterback. So, there’s no one there for him. So, he can take off and take care of it. Some of the zone-read stuff, the defensive end sat to force us to hand the football off. So, you’re not going to force him or take him and say, ‘I know the defensive end sat outside and waited for you. I want you to run the ball anyways.’ That’s just, he’s just taking what the defense gives him.”