San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan met with the media Wednesday to discuss the offensive line, the health of a few players, Dante Pettis, and much more. Let’s start with the Rams best player.
When it comes to Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald, is there a tougher defender for you to game plan against and what’s worked in the past against him?
“Yeah, no, he’s as tough as it gets to game plan for. He’s as good in the pass game as there is, he’s as good in the run game as there is. You don’t know where he’s going to be, he’s all over. It’s always harder to help on some inside guys compared to outside guys. So, he’s extremely tough.”
Two things on QB Jimmy Garoppolo, I noticed you didn’t mention him there. Is he full go? Did you have to have any sort of conversation with him after Sunday, just checking in, make sure that he’s good mentally and all that?
“Not in particular. We watch film together. We talk right there on the sideline. We talk after the game. We talk in the meetings all day. So, there was nothing much, but just, ‘How are you feeling, is it better or worse?’ Things like that, but he’s ready to go out there and go today. He’s still coming back from it, but expect him to have a full practice and I’ll evaluate him out there.”
When you’re going against defenses that are using a lot of disguises up front, how do you coach your offensive guys to be better prepared for stuff like that?
“I’m trying to understand the question. You mean the fronts and stuff?”
When teams are disguising what they’re doing upfront, how do you better prepare your team or what are the coaching points to improve in terms of with the offensive linemen or the quarterback identifying what protections need to be where and things like that?
“Oh yeah, you don’t want to get into all your rules and stuff, but that’s what everyone does every week. It has to do with who you’re targeting to, what the numbers are, lots of things go into it. So, that’s just working on that all the time and that’s also knowing, very rarely do you get through a game where someone doesn’t get you. So, you ask the quarterback when they do get you, is there a place to get rid of the ball so you don’t have to take a sack? So, all that stuff goes into play and that’s pretty much up every week.”
Regarding WR Dante Pettis, is time running out for him to kind of prove he could be the player you guys envisioned when you drafted him?
“Well, yeah, obviously we envisioned him, hope he could be a starter out there and hope he could be a returner for us. He got some opportunities this year to be a returner for us, but I don’t think, on the ones he’s gotten, haven’t been some great looks or anything. But, last week solely had to do with I was trying to get up some more special teams players for gunner and things like that with some of our corners being down. We’ve got a few guys who can return punts and kicks on our team, so that’s been his main role right now this year and we had to go another way with that. So, I’ll still decide that this week, as far as the receiver group and everything. I think that passed a little bit with us taking [WR Brandon] Aiyuk and with how good [WR] Deebo [Samuel] did this year, but if that doesn’t get better or if those guys fall off or anything like that, everyone has a chance. I don’t make any absolutes on anybody. Everyone is trying to prove themselves each week in practice. I think Dante has taken a number of steps forward this year. I think he’s working hard in practice. I know that he was disappointed not to be up last week, but he came out and he still works hard and I expect him to work hard today and try to get back up.”
It seems like a lot of the sacks allowed have been a result of miscommunication. What do you attribute that to? Is it OL Ben Garland not making the proper line calls or other offensive linemen not hearing them? What do you see?
“Each one’s different, so I’m not going to put it on one person. Guys move around a lot and you do things at the last second and you’ve got to, people have got to get on the right people. And when you aren’t on the right guy, you hope that you’re in a position where there’s enough guys out that you can get rid of the ball and not take a sack. So, we’ve got to do better at that obviously, but if it was just one thing, I probably would say that, but it’s different on each play.”
Do you do anything different with Jimmy in practice this week, just in terms of intensity and kind of testing that ankle out, maybe more strenuously than you did last week?
“Yeah, I thought we did it pretty good last week. And that’s why I think he was able to get through most of the game and probably could have continued to get through most of the game, but I think it prohibited him from being at his best. So, we’ll do the same things this week. We’re not going to hit him or anything, but we still have him move, we still do that stuff, but we’re not going to tackle him. We’ll see how he plays, if he gets better or worse from it, but I expect him to get better. I don’t think he had too many big setbacks last week, so I expect it to feel a little bit better this week, but also, you never know with a high ankle. The only thing that we could test more is tackling him and get him to the ground and that’s something we’re not going to do.”
This isn’t exactly a hard-hitting football question, but the hat. You had the success and I know the family is a little bit superstitious with the red hat last year. Has there been any conversation in the Shanahan household about bringing that back?
“No. They are superstitious, but they know winning games comes to playing good football and we’ve got to play better football. If I thought the color of my hat would help us play better football, I promise you I would never take that off. So, I understand the question, but I live a little more in reality than that, but I appreciate it.”
Just a little bit more ion kind of getting Jimmy ready for game day. Is there anything else that you can do to just, I know you can’t hit him, but is there anything else that you can do in practice that simulates more of the speed of a real game so that he can progress through the week more?
“Yeah, no. There’s not more that we can do except tackle because we go full speed Wednesday and Thursday, a couple of periods on Friday. We don’t hold back. We do bootlegs, we do play action, we scramble, we sit in the pocket. So, we already do everything you can except tackle. So, that’s how high ankle sprains are. Ben Garland has been going through it for a while. He came back from it after having a month off and you can see on some plays his first week that he really struggled because of it. You could see it in the second week. You still see it at times. People have high ankle sprains and they’ll affect you sometimes throughout an entire year. So, I think there’s a little, it’s pretty much as simple as that. It makes it hard for you to play at your best, by no means, but does that mean that you can’t play? Lots of guys go out there and they have things that prohibit them from being their best, but if you can play, you still have to go out there and perform and I’ll be the judge of that watching him throughout the week and if he has a good week of practice and looks like he gives us the best chance to win, then I won’t hesitate. If it looks like it hurts in the game and it’s prohibited him, then we’ll do what we did again.”
What did you think of how RB Raheem Mostert came back and played on Sunday? By seeing him play well, does that diminish any interest in free agent RB Le’Veon Bell?
“No. I’m good with all our guys. So, even if Raheem wasn’t back, I don’t think that would change much. I think we’ve got pretty good depth and I know we’re going to get [RB] Tevin [Coleman] back soon, too, hopefully. Raheem played, I thought Raheem played great. I thought he was probably the best football player on the field on Sunday and wish we could have got the ball to him more, but you could tell he was ready to go.”
Should Jimmy not be able to start on Sunday, is the plan still to have QB C.J. Beathard as his backup and start instead?
“We’ll see out there in the week. I’m going to have both of those guys go a little bit. Haven’t fully decided that. They’ve both gotten about equal reps here in the last, or I know [QB] Nick [Mullens] got a ton more the last two weeks. C.J. got a lot more last week, but I haven’t decided on that yet. Kind of depends on how Jimmy goes and if he’s struggling, I’ll make a decision with both of them getting more reps.”
You’ve obviously had tons of injuries. A criticism could be that a lot of the guys that are injured, when you signed them, had injury histories. DL Dee Ford had two back surgeries, he has a back injury. CB Richard Sherman had the Achilles, he’s dealing with a calf, kind of an Achilles deal. Is that a fair criticism or is it just part of, obviously you’ve benefited from those guys playing for you, you reached the Super Bowl and that’s just part of the business, you take those types of risks? “Yeah, it all depends on the eye of the beholder and when you want to ask the question, but it’s hard to get a player who hasn’t had an injury. In almost any circumstance, very rarely do players play all 16 games. So, it is part of the game. So, whenever you get someone with free agency or a draft, it’s very rare that you draft a guy out of college that hasn’t had an injury. So, whenever guys do get hurt, it’s pretty easy always to say they had one before, we should have known that, but I just look into what they brought to our team and how they’ve played for us. Sherm’s played a lot of football for us. He played almost the whole year on our four and 12 year. Dee Ford hasn’t been able to play as much, but I also feel pretty strongly it would have been very hard to get to the Super Bowl and have a chance to win the Super Bowl without either of those players. So, when you have something like that, I by no means second guess that. I’m very glad what it did for us and now we’re trying to figure out what to do now. Hopefully we’ll get those guys back and if they come back, I know they’ll help us, but if not, it’s more about the other guys and getting those guys ready to go. Those are some of the guys that we’ve had the worst luck with this year so far.”
With CB Parnell Motley, you guys claimed him off waivers. How long does it take him to get into your building and was he a guy you guys had your eye on coming into this year?
“All the DBs that come out of college and are rookies and are on practice squads, we’ve looked at recently, as far as this summer and before the draft. So, I’m always trying to, especially in our situation, look for an opportunity to upgrade and get some guys in here, but again, it’s very tough right now. I think we claimed him yesterday and that means he can come in our building on Monday. So, we don’t get him this week, but we’ll add him on Monday. So, excited to have him here and get a look at him in person.”
What are the challenges for coaching up an offensive line when you don’t have a traditional offseason program and it seems like just the overall physicality might be tampered down in the offseason preparing for the regular season?
“O-Linemen playing together is similar like five basketball players trying to play zone defense together. It doesn’t matter what you do on your own or how you work out or anything. It’s the continuity of guys moving together and getting those reps all the time. So, that would be the weakness of it with your question and that’s just what you try to do more and more of. Our guys have been staying healthy, at least on the O-Line, so that’s been good to have them here throughout the season. We’re going to get two full speed practices in this week. The pads and stuff are a little different. You only can do them one day, so you’re a little behind on that stuff, but I don’t think that’s much of the reason for it. I think our guys have been challenged by some guys, have been in some challenging situations and we’ve missed some opportunities which put kind of the spotlight on them. I know they can do better and I know we can do a lot better around them to take some of the pressure and attention off them that they’re obviously getting right now.”