The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their week of practice on Friday, and head coach Kyle Shanahan had a brief press conference after. He talked about injuries and C.J. Beathard’s practice week, but I liked hearing some of his thoughts on the 49ers struggles even without the loss of Jimmy Garoppolo.
Shanahan is pleased with the run game, but thinks the team needs to find ways to improve on third down, both offensively and defensively.
“I think offensively we’ve been running the ball well. I think we need to get a lot better on third down. We’ve struggled to do well on drives, to me, when we’ve had a lot of third downs because we haven’t been very consistent with that. We’ve done better in short yardage, just not better in the longer yardages. I think we’ve been in a lot of long third downs too which means you’ve got to get better with some penalties, taking some sacks. Then we’ve got to do better at converting.
“Defensively, we’ve talked about it. We need to get better at tackling, first and foremost, and do better at third down on defense also. I think both sides of the ball, first thing, if we could get off the field on third down on defense and we could stay on the field on offense on third down I think that would change a lot of things dramatically.”
The 49ers are already a big step behind the eight ball without Jimmy Garoppolo, so the run game will be that much more critical. Matt Breida and Alfred Morris are both questionable. Both seem to be looking OK in practice, although Breida appears to be a bit more of a game-time decision than Morris. Regardless, the 49ers badly need their run game in gear to clean up this third down problem. They need strong showings in the early downs to set up more 3rd and manageable situations. C.J. Beathard is more of a dink and dunk guy than Garoppolo, so getting to 3rd and short is critical.
On the other side of the ball, giving up conversions on 3rd and 15 (or setting up 4th and 1s) are not going to help anybody. The 49ers defense was atrocious in the first half against the Chiefs in general, but particularly on third down. Nobody (other than the Rams) has an offense quite like the Chiefs, but the Chargers are dynamic enough to be concerning. It is critical the 49ers defense finds some third down success.
Here’s Shanahan’s full transcript from Friday.
Do you have any clarity on how your defensive backfield is going to look on Sunday?
“Yes. [G Joshua] Garnett’s out. [CB Richard Sherman] Sherm’s out. [S Jaquiski] Tartt’s doubtful. [RB Matt] Breida, [RB] Alfred [Morris] and [DB Adrian] Colbert, all three will be questionable.”
Will you go with DB Antone Exum Jr. again as Tartt’s replacement?
With Breida, what is the remaining hurdle for him?
“Just to see how he feels on game day. He’s been up and down a little bit this week. He got a little bit more yesterday. We kept him limited today just trying to manage the wear and tear. But, questionable is better than doubtful so hoping it works out.”
QB C.J. Beathard spent the offseason with TE George Kittle and WR Trent Taylor working out together in Tennessee working on the offense. Was it obvious when they got back that they had been working on it? Were they sharper in obvious ways to you when they returned?
“I think they were pretty similar. Those guys are close. Two of them went to college together and I think they’re all from close to that area and I think they all like country music. So, it’s a good place for them to go hang out. But, all three of those guys work year-round. They’ve been great since the day they’ve gotten here. But, yes, they all did come back better. I don’t know if it was because they were together or just because that’s expected in year two, also.”
With the increased reps, I know you talked about C.J. should be more comfortable in year two. Were you able to see that this week in practice?
“Yeah. We’ve seen it since OTAs. Just going against our defense every day, I think he’s got a real good feel for that and a real good feel for our offense. He stepped in this week and had a hell of a week of practice.”
What makes it a good week of practice?
“Just going to the right people, staying in a good rhythm, going through his progressions, making the right reads, getting the ball to, you can always see after a play based off the play call and the coverages that you’re going against where the ball should go. How many times do they get it there? He’s been very consistent with that.”
There’s so much focus on the quarterback this week and can Beathard salvage the season and all that. But, as you look at the team overall, do you feel like it’s not just on C.J., a lot of areas need to improve for you guys to kind of have a chance here?
“Yes, no doubt. I think offensively we’ve been running the ball well. I think we need to get a lot better on third down. We’ve struggled to do well on drives, to me, when we’ve had a lot of third downs because we haven’t been very consistent with that. We’ve done better in short yardage, just not better in the longer yardages. I think we’ve been in a lot of long third downs too which means you’ve got to get better with some penalties, taking some sacks. Then we’ve got to do better at converting. Defensively, we’ve talked about it. We need to get better at tackling, first and foremost, and do better at third down on defense also. I think both sides of the ball, first thing, if we could get off the field on third down on defense and we could stay on the field on offense on third down I think that would change a lot of things dramatically.”
You talked last year that you were done checking on LB Reuben Foster on the field. He tricked you again.
“I know. I tried so hard not to go. I also, so no one ever takes it wrong, I don’t plan on going out there every time a player is down. They don’t need to see me. I’m not going to make them feel better. Doctors are around trying to do their job and everyone is around anyways. I don’t think it helps for me to just get in there and stare at someone. So, I try not to go out there unless there’s something real serious and then you’re just concerned and you want to go check on the guy. But, Reuben’s gotten me like one out of 30 times I’ve been right. So, I’ll try to hold back longer next time.”
What was the feeling on how Exum did on his time last week and how do you feel about him if he’s the guy on Sunday this week?
“I mean, Exum’s here for a reason. I thought he got a lot better as the game went. I think he made some mistakes early in the game and I think once he played a little bit more I think it slowed down for him. From a physical standpoint, I thought he played fairly well just running. I thought he tackled fairly well. I thought he did good jobs in his coverage. I think it took him a little bit for the game to calm down for him as it did for a lot of our defense in the first half. But, I was definitely happy with how he finished.”
Do you have any idea what to expect playing in a soccer stadium and potentially having a large contingency of 49ers fans there?
“I don’t know. I’m actually very curious about it. I don’t think I’ve played in a situation like this. Hopefully it won’t be as loud as it was last week in Kansas City. If it is, we’ll have to deal with it.”
You didn’t mention OL Mike Person on the injury report. Is he back to normal?
“It depends on what you consider normal, but he’s good to go.”