Eric Mangini on Arik Armstead: “He was a little tired towards the end there.”

SANTA CLARA — Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini spoke in the 49ers’ auditorium Tuesday morning. Here’s a transcript, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.

Opening comments:

“So, we just got through with our walk-thru, able to clean up some things from the Houston game, push forward on the training camp installation and we’ll get back to work here over the next few days. Talking and working and doing the things that we’ve been doing throughout camp and then we’ll prep for Dallas later in the week.”

 

What players impressed you when you went back and studied the tape?

“I was really happy with [NT] Mike Purcell. I thought that, he’s such a good guy, he’s such a hard-working guy, he doesn’t say very much. But, what I’ve always respected about him is he’s a really good listener in terms of the coaching, but he finds good mentors too. He works with the older players and learns as much as he can from them and then he gets an opportunity, he goes out and makes a really strong case for himself and you love to see that. As a coach you love to see guys who work the way that Mike’s worked and had some early success here and I’m excited to watch him throughout the rest of the preseason. Thought he did a really nice job.”

 

With the way the, just in the past, a nose tackle has, will come off the field in passing situations. Does that limit their chances of contributing to a defense where you need versatile defensive linemen?

“No, I don’t think so. We’re they, a first and second down nose in a 3-4 system, it’s so valuable because you’ve got the bubbles with the linebackers. So, that guy’s got to be able to do a lot of different things. He’s got to be able to hold up one-on-one and you get some centers that are really stout and that’s one set of problems and then you get the other group of centers that are really quick and you’ve got to be able to deal with that. You’ve got to deal with double teams that can come from a couple different directions. So, the value of a nose tackle in a 34 system is really high. And I think Mike has built versatility where he could potentially do other things. That’s not really what we’re doing with him right now. Really happy with his progress in that spot, but that’s a pivotal position in the 3-4.”

 

How about LB Shayne Skov? It seemed like he had some really good plays and a couple plays where he got sucked in there.

“Yeah, I thought Shayne’s another guy that did a nice job. You figure Shayne was playing primarily the second half of the preseason game last year in the same situation and even later in the game and he starts this game, ran the defense really well. He’s a very, very smart guy, does a great job with adjustments. Very rarely do you have to coach Shayne twice on the same mistake. He sees it, he understands what the coaching point is and typically it doesn’t happen again. And he’s getting a lot of playing time, which is great for him and great for us to see where he’s going and where he is at this point. I was happy with what he did and there’s going to be throughout all these games, we’ve got guys in different spots, there’s not a lot of planning going on so there are some things that come up in a game where yeah you wish you’d covered it, it really wasn’t the priority to cover it. But, on the flip side of that, you also like to see whether or not, do you understand the concept of the defense. And I talk to the players about this all the time. If we can, we’re not going to be able to walk through everything each week. We’re not going to be able to show them every different formation and combination. But, when you understand how things fit together on calls, when problems come up, you can fix them because you know what we’re trying to get done in the different coverages or fronts or blitzes. So, as things surprise us during the preseason because of the philosophy of it, it gives you insight as to who really understands the big picture versus ‘OK. I’ve got my job.’”

 

Does the coaching staff working together for the first time have to at some point start planning, working these preseason games like it’s a regular season game?

“Well, from a coaching perspective, we did do that. We had the process of night before the game, for us, it was day of the game, but we had that meeting. So, that’s something that we went through for the first time. The operation pregame. Talking through some last minute ideas or adjustments or thoughts and then the booth operation. Getting the personnel from the booth. That’s one of the hardest jobs in the NFL and one of the most unappreciated. It’s kind of like being a long snapper. Nobody’s really pissed at the guy until he rolls one back. It’s the personnel guy in the booth, it’s the same thing and even on the goal line, we thought it was one personnel, the two-point play, and it was a totally different personnel group and the guys had to adjust on the run and that’s going to happen and it’s going to happen more in the preseason than the regular season, but there’s another scenario where it’s like, oh, OK, well, thought it was 22 and it’s 11, now you also have to see what the players do there. But, that operation, the booth, the operation on the sideline of getting the adjustments, talking through it with the players, going in at halftime, how are we going to operate there, where are we going meet, who’s going to get the pictures up, all that stuff, yeah, we’re going through those mechanics.”

 

We’ve heard a lot about how the offense, from offensive coordinator Geep Chryst to quarterbacks coach Steve Logan to the huddle, how does it work for the defense?

“Well, I’ll get the personnel from, [defensive assistant] Mick Lombardi actually did it this weekend with [senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach] Jason Tarver in the booth and [defensive assistant Ejiro Evero] EJ was in the booth as well. So, Mick is giving me the personnel, Jason will confirm that, Jason will also talk about down and distance. They’ll both be looking at substitutions. So, that comes on to me, I’ll make the call into the players. [Linebackers coach] Clancy [Pendergast] and [secondary coach] Tim [Lewis] have been both working on personnel in terms of getting the right guys in and out. And then after the play, everybody’s tied into a different person where Jason can work with the front seven, I can work with either the front seven or with the back end and up in the booth you’ve got Mick who’s been working the secondary, EJ’s been working with the linebackers so that each position is covered up top and below and then we have different ways to line two on one. Little bit like air traffic control.”

 

You mentioned the two-point play. You’re known as kind of a football scholar. What do you think of the new two-point rule and then does it create extra work for you guys?

“It’s one of those things where anytime these new rules role out, you’re sitting back wondering ‘OK, how many guys are going to go for two every time?’ And, in the past, you had a two-point package that may have been one or two plays. But, now if you get into a team that’s consistently going to go for two-point plays, those plays are usually very specific for that situation. They’re usually not vanilla. So, there’s going to be adjustments involved. Do you want to pressure it? If you pressure it, if they come out in a gadget formation, what do you want to check to? The margin for error now is a lot smaller, but the risk-reward before from an offensive perspective was, you just didn’t get the volume that you may get this year so that’s an area that you’re going to have to have more bullets in the gun to be prepared for.”

 

Do you like the new rule?

“Yeah, well, I don’t know yet.”

 

Honest answer.

“I don’t know how much I like it yet, but I’ll circle back with you.”

 

It seems like in the past at least there wasn’t a lot of blitzing done in preseason games for one reason or another. Is that a necessity now with a team that hasn’t blitzed a whole lot in the past? Is that something you have to work on in the preseason just to get it right?

“Yeah. That’s the ongoing debate every year that I’ve been in the league where you work on things in the spring and you work on things in camp and you think ‘OK, I’m going to save it until the regular season,’ but then you go out in the regular season and it doesn’t work the way you want it to work and now you’re sitting back going, ‘Do I want to keep pushing this idea forward?’ I remember in New England one year, we worked on this coverage, we probably ran 80, 90 snaps of it in camp and we’re going to roll it out and then we have this other blitz package we’re going to roll out. We rolled it out in the first game and they scored on both of them and we threw them out after that. So, it was a really good idea, you kind of wish in retrospect you had practiced it or seen it in a live situation. Now, the next year, we ended up going back to both those concepts. We had a lot of work already done on it. We had the problems and it became part of our core system. But, it’s a universal debate; do you do it and show it and let people prepare for it or do you hold it and you’re both kind of seeing how it goes early on?”

 

You seemed to show it a lot on Saturday. Is that–?

“No, you know, talking to [Houston Texans defensive coordinator] Romeo [Crennel] before the game, we both had small package of pressures. You saw Houston, they had Red Bird Train two or three times, which, you know, is kind of a standard one out of the 34. But, in talking to “Rackers” [Crennel] we both had the same philosophy. We had two or three things, a drive gets going or you want to change the tempo, you could throw in, but it wasn’t like a typical package.”

 

What about DL Arik Armstead, how did he grade out and look in his first action?

“I thought he did well. It’s funny just talking to guys about conditioning, it gets a little, he was a little tired towards the end there. But, I thought he strained throughout the game. Saw some of the strength, the natural strength he has, the natural explosion he has. There’s a lot of things that he’s seeing for the first time in the position that he’s playing that he’ll play better against those things the next time. But, in terms of overall effort, chasing the ball, playing the screen, great awareness, great awareness. He’s just got to understand he can’t hook the guy. You can knock him down, you just can’t hook him. But, that’s one of those things that you love the fact that he recognized it. You love the fact that he was trying to take it away. Now we just coach that other component of it for the next time it comes up. But, overall a good first outing. I’m sure he slept pretty well when he got home.”

 

Is there any feelings of it being kind bittersweet that you do have such a good defensive line, so deep that you know you’re not going to be able to keep all those guys?

“Yeah, it’s great because they push each other. The other thing I like about this group is everybody knows they are fighting for jobs. Everybody knows that at some point other people are going to have to go home. But, there’s a spirit of I’m going to help you get better and, I’m going to do the best I can but I’m not going to do the best I can and not allow you to develop. Really respect the older guys there taking the time to work with the younger guys. You see it before practice, you see it during practice. That selflessness of we’ll let the chips fall where they fall, but we are all in this together and we are going to support each other. To me, that’s a sign of high character. And, ideally however it pans out, all of these guys put really good tape out there for the rest of the league to look at. And, at the end of the day, they all find good spots to continue their career because they deserve it and they’ve worked hard. One of the worst days in football is that, the days you have to cut players because you’ve done so much with them, you build relationships and you care about them and they care about their teammates. You’re really happy for their success, they move forward, but yet, you wish they could have moved forward with you.”

 

A little more on Skov. I know you weren’t his coach last year, but does he look different this year than he did last training camp?

“Yeah, I do think, I think he looks different, not just last training camp, but even from the spring. He’s had so much more work this year than he did last year and that’s helped him significantly. He’s, I can’t say enough about his recall, his ability to self-correct and all that being said, experiencing something is different. It’s a different kind of teacher. And he’s gotten the ability to have that learning during camp and now in these games. So, there’s been growth.”

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  1. “I remember in New England one year, we worked on this coverage, we probably ran 80, 90 snaps of it in camp and we’re going to roll it out and then we have this other blitz package we’re going to roll out. We rolled it out in the first game and they scored on both of them and we threw them out after that. So, it was a really good idea, you kind of wish in retrospect you had practiced it or seen it in a live situation. Now, the next year, we ended up going back to both those concepts. We had a lot of work already done on it. We had the problems and it became part of our core system. But, it’s a universal debate; do you do it and show it and let people prepare for it or do you hold it and you’re both kind of seeing how it goes early on?”

    That was a nice little peak behind the curtain. It acknowledges that coaches do indeed worry about running money plays during the pre-season for fear of teams getting tape of them. It also shows that there is no consensus still on the right way to do it. Run the play and risk giving up the film or don’t and risk not knowing if the play is a dud or not.

    Good stuff, I think I’m gonna like these Mangini interviews.

  2. Mangini better get it right. Way too many open receivers, and too many 3rd down successes. Niner defense redeemed itself with that goal line stand, but it was not what the fans expected to see. Niners need to make stops and force punts.

  3. When healthy, Mangini’s 2005 defense was effective against both the pass and the run. He was also an excellent DB coach before that. I think Mangini was hurt, both in terms of being a coach and in terms of public perception, by jumping into the head coach role too fast.

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