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Shanahan on Sanders playing time: He’s going to play a lot

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The 49ers head coach spoke with the Media Friday

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Redskins Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Kyle Shanahan provided some injury updates Friday, and talked about how much he expects Emmanuel Sanders to play. He also talked about the challenge Carolina’s defensive line presents, as well as how difficult it is to play quarterback in this league.

Opening comments:

“Injuries for today: we’ve got [RB] Raheem [Mostert] who will be questionable, [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice is out, [T Mike] McGlinchey’s out, [T Joe] Staley is doubtful, [CB Ahkello] Witherspoon’s out, [TE] Levine [Toilolo] is questionable and [WR] Marquise [Goodwin] is questionable. I know you guys saw Quise didn’t practice yesterday because of personal reasons. Same thing today, that’s why he’ll be questionable. Quise has been through as much tragic stuff here in the three years I’ve been with him as anyone I’ve been around. You guys have been awesome with how you guys have handled that, too, just respecting his privacy on that. Just until Quise is ready, I’m just hoping we can continue that a little bit for him. We’ll see how it goes this weekend, but right now, he is questionable. So, go ahead.”

Is Joe Staley’s status a comment on how he did this week or just where he is in the whole process?

“Where he is in the whole process. We thought going into the week he’d be doubtful. He’s got to come out there and do a few things, which have been good. Haven’t ruled him out because he does have a chance to play and I know how badly he wants to, but we won’t make that decision until Sunday.”

How much of Joe’s status do you have to factor just the quick turn knowing that if you have him for this game, you might need him again?

“Yeah, a good amount. He needs to be good enough that he can make it through both games. Obviously, he’s a little bit sore from working throughout the week and we’re going to see how that responds here over the next 24 hours and then we’ll make our decision. It’d be a lot easier if he didn’t have to be ready four days after that.”

You said yesterday he was feeling okay after one practice and before the second one. Do you have any indication of where he’s at right now?

“I mean, just from talking to him, it seems like he’s doing pretty good. I know he wanted to feel how it is tomorrow and things like that, but it’s positive going in the right direction. It’s definitely not enough to get him to questionable. He’s still doubtful.”

What is Levine’s injury?

“Levine was a groin.”

How do you feel with WR Emmanuel Sanders, the oversaturation of the offensive playbook this week and his progress?

“I thought he did as good as he possibly could. It’s always tough for people and it takes all year for guys to get used to it, especially when you miss the foundation in the offseason, but it really helps him being with [Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rich] Scangarello in Denver, so a lot of it is very similar, so he’s able to kind of jump in right away and make some mistakes as it goes. But, at least he was able to get in there right away and do some things where most guys they’d be really overwhelmed. It would take them some time. Still a huge challenge for him, but he’s definitely got as good of a head start as he could.”

You expect him to be able to play potentially?

“Yes, yeah, he’s going to play a lot.”

I wouldn’t expect you to tell us where he’s going to play, but are you sort of wanting him to play one specific spot and learn that job or is he advanced enough in his knowledge of the playbook where you can move him around?

“I think sometimes it’s mental, a little mentally hard or confusing just in the heat of battle to play, change positions. So, you try and keep him at one position. We can change where we put that one position based off of our play calls as opposed to having him change positions based off personnel. You can still move a guy around a lot while he’s playing the same position, but it’s just how we use our verbiage.”

I know that you’ve used Levine a lot to help the young tackles. If he can’t go, is there another guy on the roster that could kind of fill that role?

“No, there isn’t right now. So, we’ve been battling that for about a month now. We’ve been fortunate with the tight ends. It’s been tough, because one of them, [TE Ross] Dwelley’s gone to replace the fullback, so it would be a lot to deal with if he’s not able to go. I know he’s going to give it his best and if we had to play today, I know he wouldn’t be able to. Hopefully, he’ll heal up here in the next day and a half.”

What do you make of how the running game has played or how effective it’s been these last two games? I know Washington was obviously difficult given the circumstances, but just overall these last few weeks since losing Kyle Juszczyk?

“I think it’s been very effective, we haven’t had an explosive run in the last two weeks. I was just talking to the guys about this so I’ve got it on my mind, but to not have an explosive run in the last two weeks but to still be sixth overall in amount of explosive runs with one less game too than a lot of teams, it shows that they’ve done a lot of good things and we’ve gotten a lot of good looks to get those explosives, but when we haven’t the guys have been very efficient at just getting the hard, grimy yards that have allowed us to have some manageable third downs. Teams have been committing a lot more and it gets a lot more challenging each week with some of the guys we’ve been missing, but when we’ve gone four games in a row getting 40-run plays, I know last week was 39, but I’m going to round up, I think the guys are doing it pretty effectively.”

How challenging is this week for your offensive line? Seems like Carolina, much like you guys, has built a lot of their success around their defensive line?

“Yes, I think their defense reminds me as much of our defense as anyone I’ve seen. It’s definitely a playoff defense. They’re one of the big reasons that they’ve won four in a row. It’s as big of a challenge as we’ve had from all of their guys up front. Their front four, they rotate them in, just like us because they have some depth there. They’ve got a lot of first-round picks on the D-Line. They’ve got some size, they’ve got some quickness. They’ve got as good of a linebacker as there is right behind them. They’re able to keep seven guys in coverage almost all the time because I think they’re second in the league at getting to the quarterback. That allows you to be a lot better in coverage too. They are very tough.”

After you guys traded for Emmanuel, QB Jimmy Garoppolo said that he would spend as much extra time as needed to work with him. Have they stayed after practice and worked together or gone out there early?

“I would guess. I get in pretty fast after, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t out there throwing a little extra.”

I know you talked about Carolina Panthers QB Kyle Allen the other day and you’ve worked with quarterbacks your whole career. What does his success sort of say about how it’s still difficult to project how a quarterback will do? A guy goes undrafted, he’s been very productive.

“There’s just so much more to playing quarterback than just the obvious talent of people. Anyone can see someone throw it really fast and really far. You guys should watch some of our receivers throw the ball. [New England Patriots WR] Muhammad Sanu could throw it 80-yards. I’ve seen Emmanuel Sanders throw it very well and far and you have to be able to throw a football well just to get into the club, but everything else after that is how you play the game. That’s very tough, especially when you watch college tape because a lot of it is very different to judge how guys play the game. That has to do with kind of what’s inside them, how their mind works, how they react to pressure and things like that. You can see talent and all that, but you really never know what you’ve got until you’re with someone and you see them go through it a bunch.”

Has DL Nick Bosa surprised you at all with how good he’s been against the run?

“Not really, just because he plays very physical, he plays low. The style that we play with, I think he’s built for it. He’s not a guy who just is a speed guy who just tees off from the snap count and goes around every time. He’s trying to get into tackles every play whether it’s a pass rush or a run play. He was very hard to block in the training camp for the days that we did have him out there so we could see it then. No, it doesn’t surprise me.”

What went into the decision to go with S Jaquiski Tartt long-term over Carolina Panthers S Eric Reid?

“I mean, Eric Reid started the year out, got an injury. Tartt came in and played at a very high level. We knew he had more years on his contract, we wanted to renew it with him and it happens a lot in football. It happened to [QB] C.J. [Beathard] last year with [QB] Nick Mullens, when he got his opportunity. It was a little less about Eric and more about Tartt and us deciding that’s who we wanted here in the long haul.”

What has the evolution been like as far the attention that defenses pay TE George Kittle over the time that he has been here? It seems like it reached its maximum maybe.

“I mean, I think we saw that last year. Not right away, but about halfway through the year. I think people would figure it out regardless of the pub he got, usually by Wednesday or Thursday just from watching tape and how good he looks. I think the more his numbers went up, I think people kind of had an idea a little bit about him more before they would start the tape. I mean, since we’ve been here, you talk to opposing coaches and they know what 85 does on tape and he’s always gotten a lot of attention. It’s looking the same this year as it did at the end of last year.”

With the Reid situation, you understand why somebody, it happens a lot in the NFL like you indicated, but you understand why somebody in a contract year might be upset about being asked to change positions?

“Yeah, I can understand every time you ask people to do stuff new for them. That’s the hard thing about coaching and that’s the hard thing about playing, too. We were trying to get our 11 best guys out there and a lot of people play those, you know, dime to a lot of stuff. Had to do it for a week and then Tartt got hurt and so then he had an opportunity to get back to his old position. I mean, it is what it is. You don’t take things personally like that. We try to do our job as best as we can, just like players do also. Sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for the team and ask guys to be in a spot they might be uncomfortable with. What was cool about it is when we did ask him to, I know he wasn’t excited about it, but he did It and did it well and did what was best for the team, even though he wasn’t happy with it and he ended up getting his spot back when Tartt got hurt and he played at a very high level for us throughout the year that I was very appreciative of.”

With all the injuries that you’ve had to endure and the moving parts and still being undefeated, what does that say about your team and your system?

“I think it says a lot about the character in our room. Our guys have, nothing has phased them. It’s been cool to watch as a coach. You know, when guys go out and you worry that guys are going to lose some confidence and stuff like that, to watch guys during the week, to watch guys on the sideline during games, nothing seems to phase them no matter who goes out there, no matter what the situation is. When we’ve had a couple games that haven’t been as tough and then some games that have been a grind and not the prettiest games throughout the whole thing, our team just hasn’t wavered in anything and I think it says a lot about each individual in our building and collectively it’s made us pretty strong.”

Will Marquise be able to play on Sunday?

“I don’t know. Obviously, we hope so, but that depends on where he’s at. If it was today, definitely not. We’ll see how he is on Sunday, but we’ve got a couple more days before that.”