49ers offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster spoke with the media before practice about Jason Poe, Nick Zakelj, and how Ty Davis-Price has improved in Year 2. Here’s the transcript from Foerster.
Can you give us an update on OL Aaron Banks? We thought that those guardian caps did a good job of protecting against concussions. Do you know how that occurred?
“I don’t. It happened in a drill and somehow you get hit just right. I don’t know. You’d have to ask him if he got hit in the chin or maybe it was, I don’t know. I really don’t know. I just know that he felt something and they’ve evaluated it and so then he goes into the protocol thing and that’s how they determine when they’re ready to come back and everything like that. So, he seems to be doing good though.”
How are the guys doing in his place in practice?
“It’s been great work for them. Yeah, great work. The young guys, it’s like Aaron last year, it’s like with [OL] Spencer [Burford] last year, all those guys that extra work is great for them. Yesterday’s practice was like, I wouldn’t say old school, but we had a lot of reps, a lot of team plays, a lot of contact, and that’s really, really good for them to play themselves into shape. And for guys that need to improve, that’s the best chance you have to get better besides the preseason games.”
Do you have OL Nick Zakelj in different spots across the interior just to get him comfortable and evaluate him the best?
“Well, I don’t think Nick coming into camp is in a position to compete for a starting job. So, his thing is to try to put himself in a position to be just like we’re doing with [OL] Keith Ishmael, and it’s just, has to be able to do the inside three. So [OL] Jon Feliciano, him, they’re going to have to do that thing where they figure out right guard, left guard, center, kind of get comfortable in all of them. And we can see how they do that, to have that flexibility.”
Same with OL Jason Poe?
“Yeah Poe and we started getting Jason some snaps at center now early in practice. He’s done a great job learning the offense. He’s not like a very verbal guy from line calls. Some football players get out there, as you can probably imagine, [Denver Broncos T Mike] McGlinchey, right? I’ll go back to a guy that’s not here, right. And he just wants to be talking all the time. He’s always going to be talking. He’s going to be talking to the guard. He’s going to be talking to the tackle. He’ll be talking to tight end. And Poe’s going to go play and go block people the best he can. The center has to be able to communicate and Jason’s got to learn how to do that. So first of all, seeing just how well he can play so he’s got to get in that position and he’ll be the same as those other three eventually and take us some snaps at center.”
We see him in one-on-ones and he usually does very well in the one-on-one blocking drills. Physically is there anything or what exactly does Jason Poe need to work on?
“No, his thing is stature because there is a point where no matter how strong you are and he might be the second strongest guy on the team to [T] Trent [Williams]. There is just a thing of just the size and there’s just a deal in an offensive line. And he may be fringe just too short or lengthwise or things like that. Although he’s right on the borderline. And it’s going to be tough. It’s range. It’s how far do you get from here to here? He’s fast, he’s quick, but there’s just that length and that’d be the only thing that keeps him from doing it. That’s why the move to center, if he can do the snapping, the calls and all the things that go with that, then that may be a better position because that’s a little less. There’s certain things in every position, arm length, every position’s got different variables that matter. And Jason’s just below the line on those things in some areas, but he might be able to overcome them because of strength and quickness.”
Why is length less of concern at center than at guard?
“I think the proximity of the people you have to block. You start moving the further away you get from the ball. And it’s amazing, you say, ‘Okay, this guy he’s a tackle and he has 33 and five eights at the Combine, and the other guy’s got 34 and an eighth. And the difference between a guy that has 33 and whatever I just said, and 34-plus it could be four or five rounds and one guy makes it, one guy doesn’t. It’s unbelievable how it shows up. Now, there’s so many more factors that come into it, but you look at it and say, ‘Gosh, it’s funny how come all these tackles are successful, have just over 34. And these guys at 33, how many are under 34 inches at tackle that make it? How many are over?’ It’s unbelievable. It has to be something to it over the course of all this time. And then as you move into center, there’s an arm length there too. If you get under, I think it’s 31 inches, I don’t remember offhand, but it makes a difference. And it’s just the proximity I think of where the guy is.”
What has Feliciano added to your room and where’s his best spot? I know we can play all three, but where do you think he grades out highest?
“I think his best spot is center. And he does play well at guard. He’s doing a great job in all three inside. The guards in this offense, and John’s got it, he just has to do more of it with us, that there’s a quickness to our running game. John’s played guard, done a good job in this league. He played all last year at center and did a really good job for the [New York] Giants. Center’s his best spot, but he’s going to have to play guard for us as well. And I think he’s doing a good job. Every day he does it he gets a little bit more exposure to what we do and does it a little bit better. He just hasn’t done a lot of our run game. It was little, small sample sizes.”
I know OL Jaylon Moore is out right now, but at that backup tackle battle, are you looking position specific? So, Jaylon at left tackle, Matt Pryor working at right or are you going for some versatility there?
“Well, what I’m doing with Matt is, Matt has had most success on the right side. I want him to be able to put his best foot forward in this camp. We have [OL] Leroy [Watson IV] and Jaylon that we’ve been working on at both sides. Eventually Matt’s going to have to do both and that will come as I see how this thing plays out with him going forward. And then we may have to start rotating him. It’s probably going to come after the Raiders practice sessions. So, all three of them should have to play both sides.”
How are your young tight ends working out in the run blocking?
“They’re doing a good job. They’re doing a good job. They’re working real hard and they don’t do a lot of it in college, it’s harder and then the nine techniques make it even harder on the tight ends. But both kids, both those guys have really worked hard and done a good job. They’ve just got a ways to go still. Both of them.”
Between TE Charlie Woerner and TE Ross Dwelley how’s that competition going?
“They’re doing great. I mean, they’re interchangeable right now. They all work, they all have some things they do a little better than the others, but really though, between [TE] George [Kittle], the guys that’ve been here, they get it and they’re doing things very, very well for us right now.”
OL Spencer Burford was in here the other day talking about his transformation from last year to this year and how he’s lost a little bit of weight, about eight, nine pounds. That might seem like not a lot to the casual fan, but what have you seen in his buildup this year compared to his rookie year?
“I mean, he literally looks like, there’s a step when a kid’s growing up, right? You look like you, all of a sudden you were the pudgy kid in eighth grade and you come back after summer vacation and now oh my gosh, you grew up over the summer. That’s kind of what Spence did. He kind of worked his butt off this offseason, came back after the season and lost the weight and kind of just redefined where his body is and put it together better. His stamina, everything about him has grown up, his maturity, his mental capabilities, understanding the offense and his physical as well. And he’s really a well put together guy right now. He’s taking care of his body and he is really doing things the right way. He’s disciplined with his diet, everything. He’s doing a great job.”
I like to watch the one-on-one O-Line D-Line drill and obviously the backup defensive linemen are going to be important. They’re going to play in a rotation. I know you’re an O-Line coach, but which of the backup defensive linemen are impressing you in those one-on-ones?
“Oh, man. To be honest with you, I don’t spend a lot of time. They’re all doing a good job. And if Kyle says, hey, how’s 62 doing? He’s doing a good job. How’s so-and-so? [Defensive line coach] Kris [Kocurek] has those guys playing so hard and so well, I don’t think I could single any guy out to say, oh my gosh, this guy, and I don’t even know their depth chart, to be honest with you. I mean, I know [DL Javon] Kinlaw. Yeah, I don’t know. But, they’re all doing a good job, they all work really, really hard. I wouldn’t say I see every one of those guys, like I said, Kris has them going, they come off the ball hard. Every one of them gives us fits. And I really don’t notice them at this point because I’m so worried about the guys that I have trying to do their thing.”
Looking ahead to the joint practices, is there a sense that everybody’s ready to hit somebody that’s not on their own team?
“I don’t think we’ve got there yet. No. I think schematically, it’ll be good because our defense kind of the nine, what they do schematically, I think coaches probably more than players. The players, I don’t get the feeling yet that we’re – we haven’t been hitting enough. After a couple weeks of hitting you’re like I’m done with this, I’m ready for the next guy. I think we’re not at that point. It’ll be great to do, but it is early, right? It’s not normal the first week before the first preseason game. But I’m glad we’re doing it. It’ll be great.”
Leroy Watson’s been a player who’s been able to get some reps earlier the last couple of days because of injuries. How is he kind of stepping up for you?
“It’s been great to watch him. The question was asked earlier about the development of these guys and all the different positions and stuff, and Leroy’s one of those guys, he’s made great strides. Not to be confused with ready, same thing with Nick. Great strides, but not quite there yet. Poe, you know, it’s been great for them, but it’s only a few practices in, it’s not a lot of game reps. But it’s been great that he’s been able to get all these exposures and now it’s just a matter of whether we can build on it and it doesn’t fall back because you start making progress and sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. We’ve got to keep them progressing. It’s been cool to see.”
How much progress has RB Ty Davis-Price made from last year to this year?
“It’s unreal right now. Last year, he looked good early. He looked good when we didn’t have the pads on. And then all of a sudden as we started playing games, different things happened during the course of the year. It just wasn’t as good. He, right now, looks like a man on a mission. He’s fun to watch. And I see all the things we saw when we drafted him. He just gets to the open field, he’s a load, he’s fast. He’s seeing things better. He understands the offense better. Everything about him, like all these guys, first to second year, you get here your rookie year and sometimes it’s, you’re just, your head starts spinning. It doesn’t stop until the season’s over. And Ty’s been that kid that man, everything’s kind of coming together for him. He looks like a different guy. He’s playing very, very well. It’s fun to watch.”
Seems like he just shot out of a cannon on that draw I think he ran the other day, but he’s heavier this year. But I guess he’s cut fat, so he’s probably leaner and quicker.
“Yeah, the whole thing is these guys in college, I always say I don’t know much about college football. I do know here, everything becomes a factor when you get to this building. From a nutrition, strength coach, you see other guys, right? You don’t know. And then all of a sudden you watch [RB] Christian McCaffrey training, you watch Juice [FB Kyle Juszczyk], what he does, oh, if I just do a little bit of this and Spencer comes in to see how [T] Trent [Williams] takes care of himself, and you’re like that’s what happens and all of a sudden your body changes, you get stronger, you become more explosive. You may lose weight but gain more explosion because of what they do in the weight room with our guys and everything we do trains towards what that person needs and what he needs fixed. How we can make him more explosive. And so, our staff here, they do such a good job. And then, like I said, the confidence that he has, he understands now what he’s reading on a draw. He’s not guessing. He knows, he sees it and he hits it.”
Has there been a concerted effort over the past couple years? I know the coaching staff works closely here with the personnel department, but to get backs that are a little bit bigger also, obviously still fast, but given the fact that it seems that defenses around the league are getting smaller?
“Yeah, I think we just evaluate the player and then, it’s not a non-factor at all, but it’s like, man, let’s first look at the skillset. If the guy’s a good runner then okay, this a bigger guy, this is a smaller guy than that has to win it some point. But it’s not like a concerted effort to say, we need a bigger guy doing this stuff.”