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Kyle Shanahan talks Josh Gordon interest, getting Reuben Foster back, Jimmy Garoppolo’s sacks

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The 49ers head coach met with the media on Monday to talk about Sunday’s victory over the Detroit Lions. We have a full transcript.

Glad to have LB Reuben Foster back in the fold now?

“Yep. Hope to get him back here.”

Do you go out on the field at all on Mondays?

“No, we don’t go out. We just had them in the meetings. We’ll see him full-go on Wednesday.”

What will you guys do as far as, did you have to make a roster move today?

“No, we don’t. I think we get two days once he gets here to do that. We have to do it at the end of the week.”

Would you approach this like he’s been here practicing all along? Do you just throw him back in?

“Yeah, we plan on it. We’ll discuss more of that tonight. We’ve kind of just been finishing up all this game stuff now. We’ll see how he is in practice on Wednesday. We’ll see how the week goes. He’s only been gone two weeks. I know he’s been working hard while he’s been away, so I plan on him being in there pretty fast.”

What stuck out to you when you re-watched the fourth quarter?

“When you get a lead like that in the fourth quarter, what was it, 30-13, I was just telling our guys some things are out of your control, but usually when you get into that type of lead you can control the outcome of the game, and we allowed them to get back into it where it wasn’t in our hands. You can’t allow that to happen. We should’ve put them away earlier than that and we didn’t.”

After the game, you mentioned to the team that the passing game needs to be better, can be better. What have you seen from the passing game?

“Similar to what I said last night. We didn’t get enough production in that. I think you can see that on third down especially. The six sacks that we had, obviously we ran the ball very well, but in the pass game they played a lot of man coverage and I don’t think we did a good job beating it and attacking it and getting the results.”

Last season, WR Trent Taylor was a real integral player for you on third down and beat a lot of man coverage. What did you see from him? He only had two targets, no catches.

“The same thing that I think all our guys struggled at yesterday. I thought [WR] Pierre [Garçon] did the best beating the man coverage. They played very, very tight man coverage, aggressive coverage, holding them a lot, which is part of the game because rarely does that stuff get called. You’ve got to see how it is going to plan early in the game and then you see they’re going to let them do it, so you’ve got to get used to it. I thought Pierre did the best one beating holding.”

How tempting was it for you guys to pursue New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon and see if there could be a fit here for him?

“Anytime a good player becomes available on the open market, you look into all that stuff. By no means is it something you ever would get desperate for. Like I said last night, we feel very good about the guys on our team. That’s something that we looked into and obviously went a different way.”

Was the price too high for you guys?

“Yeah, I’m not going to get into exactly what. But, I think they did more than we did.”

How did WR Dante Pettis do on the press coverage, the one-on-one stuff?

“I don’t think anyone did a great job, like I said. He’s got to get used to that. They definitely let them get away with a lot more in the NFL than in college. Dante was fighting some things in the game, too. He needs to get better at it.”

Can you, as the offensive coordinator, scheme your way out of those situations to give them a little bit more leeway off the line?

“Yeah, definitely. That’s something we could have done a better job on. It’s something that we work real hard on. That’s why we move guys around a lot. That’s why we’ve got a lot of stacked releases. That’s why we’ve got certain types of plays that we do. Didn’t do a good enough job of it yesterday.”

What impressed you the most about the way RB Matt Breida was running when he hit those lanes?

“Just not hesitating. There were a few runs that we felt we had a chance going into the game to hit. When we did get those, there was zero hesitation. He hit them. The way you have days like that is when you get those opportunities and you turn them into home runs. He got that one in particular. There was a number of other explosives he got. He had some good looks and then he made them into some really good looks with what he did after.”

Would you like to get him more opportunities moving forward?

“I’d like to get everyone more opportunities. We’ll see how the games go, always. Usually the better you’re playing, the more runs you get. The better you do on third down, the more you control the ball. I’d love to get 50 carries in a game here, but we have to get after someone to do that.”

Do you have a sense whether S Jaquiski Tartt will be able to go this week?

“I don’t right now. He’s day-to-day. He’s got his shoulder stinger deal. So, we’ll see how that responds throughout the week. I know he was dealing with it last week, also. Just real happy how he fought and played through that game, though. I know he made it almost through it, right there to the end. We’ll see how he responds this week.”

After watching the tape, you mentioned guys not being able to separate from coverage, but what does QB Jimmy Garoppolo need to improve upon in those scenarios to avoid those sacks?

“Just when he doesn’t have much, just getting rid of it. He definitely couldn’t have done that on all of them. It was definitely a group effort. I thought there was a couple he had a chance to get rid of it. You wait on a guy in man coverage and if you wait on them and they don’t win or they get tackled, sometimes you’ve got to get rid of it. You can’t just stay and look at him. Or you’ve got to get off of him early when you see they’re not winning. Anticipate that they’re not going to win because it’s not looking good early and progress to number two. But, once you stay there, you’ve got to let it go and hopefully if they don’t win, you don’t take the sack. Jimmy might have had an opportunity on a couple of those, but definitely not on all six. They did a good job covering and a good job getting to us when he did hold onto it because of that.”

I know you were asked this last night, but now that he’s a full-time starting quarterback, he threw three interceptions Week 1, do you think there is any carryover and is that sort of a new type of challenge week-to-week that he has as a full-time starting quarterback?

“Yeah. I think that’s something he’ll go through throughout this year. We’ll go through it with him and we’ll learn as we go. You feel that. I can feel that to a degree after a game when you end up having six sacks like that. You go back and watch the tape. I think every one of them was versus man coverage. It’s not that he’s scared to let it rip in the zones and stuff, just wait on someone to beat a guy and it wasn’t happening fast enough. We couldn’t get those guys off of us for a while. That’s how they were calling the game. That’s some of the stuff you’ve just got to deal with. There’s certain things that we can do to help him out that we’ll do a better job of that next week.”

That last one, was he coached to take that sack?

“The last one, definitely. That’s something you say in the headset. ‘Hey, a sack here is better than an incompletion because you want the clock to run.’”

So you reminded him of that?

“Yes.”

Is there any question whether CB Ahkello Witherspoon will start on Sunday?

“We’ll see how this week goes. I mean, he was in and out towards the end of the game. I don’t know exactly how he’s feeling yet. We’ll see on Wednesday, but we’ll see how practice goes this week for him.”

He came out obviously during that tough stretch for him. He had penalties, he missed a tackle. That was just an injury thing or was it more of a performance thing--?

“No. We felt other people at that time gave us the best chance. Yeah, that was crunch time. They’re going against a real good offense there. [Detroit Lions QB Matthew] Stafford’s got a great chance to get them back in the game with how good he is. Just watching the game right there, we felt giving [DB] Jimmie [Ward] in helped us.”

On the five-yard touchdown to Detroit Lions WR Marvin Jones, he was playing with like four yards of separation. Is that what he’s supposed to be doing there at the goal line?

“Are you talking about the first one?”

Yeah.

“The one that scored from like 20 yards out? The play action?”

No, the five-yarder on the slant. He was in the slot.

“Oh, yeah. We’ve got a three-man rush on that, so there’s a number of people you can double on the play. It has to do with how they come out, whether they’re in three by one or two by two. There’s a lot of options on there. They were playing man coverage and he’s expecting some help. Didn’t get the help. There was some confusion from the guys.”

I’m not trying to get you into trouble by any means, but when you’re going tempo like you did yesterday and you did in Week 1, it seems like there’s a couple of times yesterday where the officials weren’t spotting the ball or there was something off in the timing of that. What is the reasonable expectation that you’re supposed to have when they spot the ball?

“When we don’t sub, we’re supposed to go as fast as possible and there were two times in particular, one time that they thought we subbed because [RB Alfred Morris] Alf ran half way off and then realized that we wanted him in still so he came back on. So, they thought that was a sub which I totally understand because he started to go off so they made us wait for that. But, the one on the one-yard line, he said he needed to get to a position to do his job to ref. We didn’t give him enough time. So, he’s got to get faster.”

The run game was utilized a lot more efficiently in Week 2. What can you attribute to that improvement in production between Morris and Breida?

“We hit some long ones. We had some lanes. Usually you do better on third down, you stay on the field longer and you get more runs. That wasn’t the case here. We didn’t do very well on third down. We thought going into the game that we’d have a good chance to run the ball. We thought they’d play a little bit more pass and those guys took advantage of their opportunities. I thought the O-Line blocked well and so did the receivers. Everyone did, all 11 guys really committed to that run game. The backs did more than what the holes gave, too.”

Where has Breida improved most in year two?

“I think just his confidence. He’s keeping his feet. He had a couple of chances last year because he can hit a home run. He’s got the speed to do it. He’s got the cutting ability to do it. He had a couple chances last year. I remember the Indy game in particular where his feet just got caught up, was one small trip away where it was very close. He hadn’t gotten that look this year yet in a game. Going into the second game, the first time he got it, he hit it and didn’t stumble on anyone. He reversed the field, followed all of his blocks and made a hell of a play which not many people can do.”

Have you decided on LB Fred Warner, whether he’ll continue to start?

“No, we haven’t decided yet. We’ve got to see exactly where Reuben’s at. We’ve got to see where [LB] Malcolm’s [Smith] at too. We’ve got to see our whole group because it’s been pretty fluid here these two weeks.”

As far as what you said earlier, did you say that the one receiver who seemed to do the best on press coverage was Pierre?

“It wasn’t just press coverage, it’s beating holding. Pierre is a hard guy to hold. He’s angry, he’s physical and he runs through it.”

I was just going to ask, is that a function of strength or being a veteran?

“I think it’s a function of his strength and his veteran-ness and his attitude and his mindset and just a lot of things.”

You talked about his stiff arm. He reached back and stiff armed a guy. He said that was probably a mistake. Have you seen Pierre do that before?

“Yeah, there comes a time where Pierre is looking for contact and that’s what he’s trying to do. That’s why we love him. I should have gone to him more in the game. My favorite sequence of plays in the game is three in a row, we ran an outside zone to the left, I think we got like 18 on it, and then we ran the same outside zone to the right. That’s when Breida went to the house. Pierre turned into the fullback on the play, led block the whole way, and you could see him going crazy at the end of it, how excited he was for his blocking. So, then we did the next play which was a pass to him and that was the one where he was just trying to hit people after he caught it. So, you knew what kind of mood he was in which is one that helps you win.”

Did you do any team film breakdown?

“Today, no. Today showed more of some of the good plays by guys. We talked a lot about some of the issues that we talked about last night in the locker room. Just reading some of the guys’ comments after the game, I think those guys had a very strong idea of what almost happened that shouldn’t have happened. I think the guys were pretty good today with that and we kind of handled that all in our rooms individually.”

What was the one play that you broke down?

“I showed a number of the good plays. I showed some of the positive stuff. That stuff just at the end was just how we’ve got to finish there. Offense has got to stay on the field and move the chains. We can’t make mistakes. We have to keep our defense off of the field. When you give it back to Stafford and someone like that, now you’re going to start depending on people to make the right or wrong calls. You’re going to put a quarterback in a situation like that who’s usually going to be very good and then you’ve got to hope guys have a couple of drops and things like that. We were fortunate. That happens to both sides and we know that, but we also know it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.”

Since the season started, has Jimmie Ward only seen reps at cornerback?

“No, he got reps at safety in practice last week. He gets reps at nickel, reps at dime and reps at corner, so all of the secondary spots.”

So, if Tartt has to miss time this week during practice, is Ward going to be your backup?

“He’s a possibility. We’ve got a number of guys that can do it. It depends where we’re using him that week. But, he had to take some reps in practice last week for that.”

There was a play I think in the second corner, Marvin Jones was deep and Stafford overthrew him and LB Elijah Lee was covering him. Was that a missed coverage?

“No, that’s just how everyone who’s in our system plays cover three. You’ll see it throughout the league. The backside deep third corner was taken on an out route and when the play extends for a while, that’s a linebacker in a hook zone who’s got to carry a guy across the field. But, you’ll see it a number of times happen. Watch [Los Angeles Chargers] San Diego, Atlanta, Seattle, Jacksonville. It’s just part of the system. Dallas, Indy, lots of guys do it.”

You’ve obviously seen Pierre catch a lot of passes and make a lot of good plays. Where does the blocking, when you think of Pierre Garcon, is that one of the better offensive plays that you’ve ever seen?

“It is. He does that a lot. That one was cool because it’s just him and the defender and Breida in the picture for 25 yards. So, it was a long 25. I couldn’t figure out what was going to happen. I was waiting for someone to trip on each other, but it just stayed that way the whole way which was impressive. But, ‘P’ does that stuff a lot. Not everyone gets to see it because it’s not as easy to see there. But, he is always working on that backside. He’s always trying to get involved and trying to always find a way to hit someone.”

What was your reaction when you saw Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes threw six touchdown passes yesterday and did you want to go see the highlights?

“Yeah, and I haven’t seen them yet. Without seeing them yet, I know they’ve got a lot of speed there. I know they’ve got as good of a tight end as anyone. And, I know how strong the quarterback’s arm is. It’s something that we need to end this as soon as possible so that I can go to work on it.”

What does DL Solomon Thomas need to do to get more playing time?

“Just keep going like he did yesterday. I thought he showed up a lot yesterday. I thought he was playing hard in pursuit and stuff. I thought he showed up at the quarterback a couple of times. I thought he came out as a stack monster, just throwing the ball down the field. He turned and ran to the ball a lot. I noticed him a lot with energy, just feeling him on the field. I thought he had a better game than he did a week before and I expect that to continue throughout the year.”

Is it just a function right now where you think DL Arik Armstead is a better interior guy on those key third downs?

“Yeah and it’s also who’s a better outside guy, too. We think all three of them excel on the inside, but we also have to mix them up and put them on the outside more. So, sometimes we do Solomon there, sometimes we do Armstead. As we’ve said before, [DL DeForest Buckner] Buck’s always an option, too. But, that depends on the five O-Linemen we’re going against and who we think the best matchups are in third down situations.”