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Robert Saleh talks Jullian Taylor, Malcolm Smith’s injury, DBs seating chart

The 49ers defensive coordinator met with the media on Sunday. He had plenty to discuss from their Thursday preseason opener. We have a full transcript.

What did DT Jullian Taylor show you in the large number of snaps you gave him?

“I thought Jullian did a good job. He competed. He represented all of the things that he has shown throughout practice, and that’s violence, that relentlessness that we like. Improved his hand placement a little bit over the course of the game. Again, I know there’s a lot of exciting things for him and he made a lot of plays, but in this league, nobody really cares about what you did yesterday. It’s all about what you do today and the next day and the next day after that, so he’s got to continue to stack up great days and get better at what we’re trying to work with him. The major thing is hand placement and getting his head up out of the gate.”

What did you make of that first drive?

“You know, there was a lot of lost opportunity in that first drive. The first play of the game, or the second play of the game, actually, we had a missed fit in the run game which was good because it’s a different run game, a run scheme that we didn’t prepared for. Then, you get into that first third down, that third-and-nine, I feel like we had them dead for their rights and just a lack of communication. Being able to work a stunt on the right side of the defense. That’s what preseason is for, ironing out all of those little things. There’s a lot of new things for those guys on the D-Line and in the backend, for that matter. As we progressed through the drive, just little things where we could be a lot more precise in the way we do things. That’s been the challenge for this entire offseason, is how precise in year two can we get so instead of third-and-one like they had, it could have very easily been third-and-five if we were a little bit more precise in our drops and the techniques that we’re using. Then, of course, with [DB] Jimmie’s [Ward] situation he was perfectly positioned. Head whipped and he just slowed down. Those are things that he’s got to work through. There was a lot of missed opportunity in that first drive. A lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of ugly I guess you could say. I feel like there were things that we’ve got full control over and that gives all of us hope that we can get it fixed and get it rolling for the next one.”

You mentioned the lack of communication on the stunt on third-and-10. What exactly was the--?

“We came out initially with a call and based on the formation and the front, [DL DeForest Buckner] Buck has the authority to change it. The change got made, but it didn’t get all the way across the defensive line. Not all four got it. One missed it. We were trying to work a stunt and as that steps up, we should have had an end wrapping. The wrap never came. So, what ended up happening was a parting of the Red Sea and a guy like that is just going to run.”

What was the issue on the 15-yard run, second play of the game?

“It was a combination of a lot of people. The way we teach our run fits with the nose getting vertical, [LB] Reuben [Foster] overran it, and then of course on that backside with the buzz defender, we’re so used to things cutting back that he just slow-played it and it kind of rocked backward. You’ve got to stay play-side and when you start playing a team that pulls, you’re cutting the defense in half so there is no cutback. Then, you just understand that things that they’re not used to, didn’t game plan for it and in a game-plan situation, it would have been an easy fit. For the rest of the game, most or all of our pulls after that first one, feel like we did a great job with our fits. Had a missed tackle on one of them that resulted in a big play, but I felt good about the way we fit up the runs from there on out.”

What did you see from the run defense today? It seemed like there were a few long runs.



“Yeah, I’ve got to see the tape. It looked like a couple of things late, but sometimes from where I stand it looks like it leaks out but then you look at the tape and someone’s there. They’re just protecting a teammate to make sure we don’t knock anyone to the ground.”

Where do you fall on the balance of trying to get the team ready and talk about the precision, but also make everybody is healthy and good to go physically for the time regular season starts?

“Obviously, there’s a fine line and then there’s great communication I think between [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan], management and the training staff, player and all of that. This is one of the best places I’ve been to in terms of communication I’ve been around. But, if you strap up and you step between the white lines you’re all gas, period. You’re signaling that you’re ready to go by getting on to the football field. The fine line is once you clear protocol and you’ve taken care of your body and you’ve done everything you could to get the helmet back on so you can step between the white and get to the huddle, you’re rolling. We believe in this organization and it’s a philosophy with Kyle and obviously the philosophy all of the way down is that you can’t prepare if you walk through. You’ve got to prepare as if you’re playing a game so when you do get to the game it’s easy. Hopefully I answered your question.”

What are the biggest benefits of practicing against another team this week?

“There’s a lot of great things. One, you feel a different run game. Houston’s got a different run game, just being in the AFC South for three years and knowing what they do. They’ve got a different pass game, a different play-action pass game. Different human beings that you’re going against. It’s a lot better. I shouldn’t say a lot better. It’s very beneficial because you just get different looks. So, there’s different ways that teams will attack your system and you get to see it on tape and you get to try some things. From a schematic standpoint, it’s awesome because you’re seeing something different. From a players’ standpoint, it’s great because you’re playing against somebody different. To be honest with you, they get juiced up for those practices and they get excited and they come to work. You get a lot of great work, as long as both teams come in mature and they look to get work and they can check their ego at the door and take care of each other and make sure that we’re all there to work, you can get a lot of good work in.”

Last week both DB Tarvarius Moore and CB D.J. Reed Jr. mentioned they have assigned seats in the meeting room on either side of CB Richard Sherman. Is that a defensive-wide thing or is that a defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley thing to have assigned seats in the meeting room?

“You know, that’s a good question. That one might be for Haf. Every coach is going to take care of their room the best way they feel like they need to take care of it. So, I don’t dabble too much in there when it comes to the philosophy of how they want their room to look and act and all that stuff. As long as it always adheres to our style and what we’re trying to accomplish as an entire defense. So, if he’s doing that I’m sure he’s got good reasons.”

Forgive me if you’ve been asked this already, but last week we asked about Jullian Taylor and you said that he looks good, but he’s got ways to go. We’d like to see him in a game first. We’d like to see him make the team first. Now that you’ve seen him in a game, has your opinion changed at all?

“Same thing. He took a big step. Obviously, [DL] Arik [Armstead] didn’t dress. There’s a lot of guys that still have to go through the evaluation process, but Jullian, his arrow is going up. He’s doing everything right. He plays violent, relentless. He fought his tail off versus that big O-Line with the ones and he continued every quarter and showed up. Then as the game wore on, the expectation is that he becomes more dominant and he did. That’s a testament to him. Now, it’s how can we escalate that to the first quarter, along with the second and third quarters and all the way through. He took a really good step. But, as far as a growth standpoint, he really does have a long way to go with hand placement. There was sometimes you can see it in the game where he just created knockback and separation and it looked awesome. Then, there’s times where he got too much forward-leaning, face and chest and all that stuff. But, he’s doing the tight things. He’s got great intent when he practices. He’s very deliberate. So, we’re excited about where he’s going but he’s got a long way to go.”

Did LB Pita Taumoepenu get some reps at SAM today with the ones and what have you see from him, not just a pass rusher, but playing SAM as well?

“Pita’s doing a good job. He’s been growing. He’s come a long way. It’s like he learns something new every day and he’s been getting better every day. Him getting the reps with the ones, I know there’s ones, twos and threes and all that, but there’s a lot of guys getting reps with the ones. Some of our ones had reps with threes today. We don’t really look at it from that regard. We’re just trying to make sure guys get work. With [LB] Eli [Harold] having the knee contusion, you have two more SAMs so there’s a lot of reps to go between the two. He’s moving in the right direction. Again, he’s got a long way to go and it’s a big week for a lot of guys going into Houston. It’s getting close.”

Can you talk about that competition at the SAM linebacker position between LB Dekoda Watson and LB Mark Nzeocha?

“It’s open, just like every other position on the team. They’re all working hard to get better every day. They all provide a unique quality that makes them all unique to the defense. There’s a level of consistency that the group needs to continue to show, but love all of them. Love Nzeocha, love Pita, love Eli. [LB] Dekoda’s [Watson] more kind of transitioned to a LEO role, but it’s a really good group and a really good competition.”

When you don’t have Eli on the field, that big on-ball linebacker, do you use over fronts more frequently or is it pretty much the same?

“Depends on the personnel. Obviously if Eli is not in the game and we’re smaller, then yeah there’s no point in wasting him. You could easily keep him on the ball. The year 2013 in Seattle when [Oakland Raiders OLB] Bruce Irvin was suspended the first four games of the year, Malcolm Smith played that SAM linebacker and it didn’t change any of our fronts. It’s the same thing. You could easily do it. All you do is change where you put the five and the four and all that just to relieve some stress on that SAM is the next step.”

You mentioned this week is going to be big for a lot of guys. Do you group LB Fred Warner in that category and where are you at with him?

“With Fred, he’s working through his injury. It’s one of those really nagging injuries that he’s working through. I’m just excited for the kid to get some reps, to be honest with you. So, as he continues to go through and as he gets cleared closer and closer for contact, I’m excited to see what it looks like.”

What is the injury?

“I believe he’s got a chest contusion. From my understanding it’s just a very nagging injury that needs to heal.”

Is there a position group or one are that you’re really keen on this week in these two practices against Houston? You want to see everyone play well, but is there one thing that you’ll really keep your eye on?

“You know, if I were to dissect it, I’d love to see our pass rush. I thought we rushed the passer really well against Dallas, as a unit with our games and all that. Obviously, there’s things we’ve got to clean up, communication, but to see that transfer over to another offensive line, just continue to watch the growth of our linebackers. All the way through. Just watching how our DBs stand up to their receivers who are pretty good in Houston with [Houston Texans WR] DeAndre Hopkins and all that. A lot of good challenges coming through for every group and we’re excited and we’re looking forward to being able to compete.”

Is the plan for Sherman to get in team drills in Houston?

“That one would be up to the trainers. I haven’t been given any information one way or the other.”

Is there concern with Malcolm Smith just not having played much football? Right now he’s obviously out again. Or, do you say well as long as he’s ready for Week 1, he’s a veteran?

“That’s a good question. We all trust Malcolm fully and there’s no doubt in my mind that when he’s able to go that he’s smart, he’s physical, he plays fast, but maybe I’m old school, every player, and I’m not saying anything negative about Malcolm because I know he’s going through little nicks and bruises that are slowing him down a little bit, but we all believe that a player needs to prepare to be able to play in Week 1. And so for him when he gets back out there, and it’ll be quick because he works his tail off and I know he’ll be back quick, but it is. You want those guys to get those reps. You want them to be able to prepare so that way there’s no shock value when they first get on the field and it’s going 100 miles an hour and you don’t have a quarter to get back up to speed, you can just hit the ground running. He doesn’t need a lot of time, as much time as say a rookie, but would really love for him to be on the field. I know he’s going through some stuff, and I’m not challenging him in any way, but it is for everybody to be able to go through a week and prepare so they can play in a game.”

Is that an aggravation or is that a new injury?

“I haven’t been told one way or another, to be honest with you.”