This is the transcript of Eric Mangini’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“We are full-bore moving along, short week, a lot to do, a lot to do today. Trying to get as much as we can in the classroom and then as much as we can through the physical activity that we’re doing, but obviously it’s tempo’d down. We’re only a couple days out from the game, but the guys are doing a good job, they’re focused and pushing forward and just moving ahead quickly.
Obviously, a division opponent, but this is your first time even being on this side of the ball studying Seattle. Is it tough to try to get a book on them so quickly? I’m sure a lot of people on your staff probably have a pretty good idea of what they do.
“Yeah, anytime it’s a short week you’re trying to catch up on the games that you haven’t seen. Whether it’s a division opponent or not a division opponent, over the course of the regular season, there are things that take place that are different than what you’ve seen before from that team and you try to see what carries over, what tendencies carry over the strongest and hone in on those and then make sure that you’re solid and the group is solid on what’s different. How things have changed, how they are using players differently. Obviously, TE Jimmy Graham is a pretty big difference for them offensively and how he’s being used, how that affects the offensive philosophy. All those things.”
You guys are going to defend Jimmy Graham, but is it safe to say that this year’s squad has more options on the roster than maybe previously?
“There are a lot of options on that roster and their quarterback makes everybody not just an option on the route, but then there’s the secondary options and the way that he can extend plays. He has tremendous arm strength and then he’s got the ability to pull it down and throw 40 or 50 on you before you can blink. So, that’s a challenge in terms of, trying to not just keep him in the pocket but with the quarterback driven runs, those type of runs, they can control some of, or how much he carries it and that’s a whole other element in the running game that you typically don’t face with this type of explosiveness. The good thing is we work against [QB] Colin [Kaepernick], so that’s helpful.”
I meant your own roster. It seems like you’ve got some guys that potentially could match up well against him, S Jaquiski Tartt, DB Jimmie Ward, CB Dontae Johnson has some length to him. You have different avenues that you can go to –?
“Yeah, you do, but their ability to get into 11-personnel, the three wide receiver sets with Jimmy Graham and run the ball effectively with [RB] Marshawn [Lynch], it’s a question of how much of the dime packages would you want to be in, where you’re better in coverage but you don’t have the same type of run fits against their offensive line, against that back. And then there are the fits not just during the core runs, but then when the quarterback detaches from the formation or keeps the ball. All of those things, you rep out add the short week to it and there are certain things you can do and do well and do effectively. And then, there are other things that you might like to do, but just really isn’t the game for it.”
They have some new faces on the offensive line and statistics suggest that they struggled. Are they still trying to come together and gel and have some cohesion?
“Anytime you, whether it’s the O-Line, whether it’s the secondary, any of those groups that have a lot of communication and that familiarity that you need to anticipate, often times you have to anticipate what the guy next to you is going to do before it even happens. That does take time and they do a lot of things really, really well. But, it does, anytime you put together a group that has so much communication, so much coordination, so much is dependent on each other, it does take it a while to get it where you want it to be. But, they’ve done a lot of good things.”
Head coach Jim Tomsula has talked about the past couple of weeks, trying to find ways to limit ways to limit LB NaVorro Bowman’s reps. That didn’t happen Sunday. But, if that does change going forward how do you make those changes? Who stands to benefit in terms of playing time, or do you need to get creative with some of those packages you’ve been rolling out?
“Yes, some of it could be [LB] Mike Wilhoite knows the same positions in the sub or the dime group. We’ll have to see where [LB] Gerald [Hodges] is and how he progresses. There’s the base option where you can take him out there and mix some guys in as well. It’s trying to find a balance and then finding the right guy. There’s the communication component too, because he calls the plays, so when that guy goes in you’re signaling as opposed to radioing in.”
Obviously, he’s probably not going to want to come out of the game, how have those conversations gone?
“Well, they go exactly as you’d expect them to go from somebody who is just relentless and determined and cares very deeply about the things that he does. Nobody wants to come off the field ever. I’ve never had a conversation with a guy like, ‘hey, we’re going to take some reps off,’ and they’re psyched. And, if they are, better move on from this guy. He’s trying to get out of here. No, it’s one of those things with the injury and with the discussions and with the openness we’ve had throughout trainers, Jim, NaVorro, we’re just trying to get to the right formula for defensive success and for his personal, long-term success and career sustainability.”
Gerald, did you give him the whole defense or do you, for the first couple of weeks, just really try to be specific for him to learn all there is to know about a small role?
“Well, what you do is you do give him the whole defense, so he has an overview. So, he understands the communication, understands how things work, but then you have him really focus on one area where you think he can contribute initially. But, Gerald has been great. He got a bunch of reps last week. He spends a lot of time in the mornings with [linebackers coach] Clancy Pendergast to try to push the learning curve ahead.”
You obviously have tried blitzing. You’ve backed off blitzing but more often than not you just haven’t generated tons of pressure on the quarterback. Do you feel like you have the personnel here to eventually get that done?
“When you look at it and you do this every time you watch tape, it’s never, you wish you could say, hey, if we just did this a little bit better the pass rush would increase 20 percent, 30 percent, whatever that number is, but it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes it’s a function of we don’t hit the right gaps. Sometimes it’s a function of the coverage should have gone longer than it goes. Sometimes it could have been a much better call on my part. So, it’s not one thing, where you take a step back and say, ‘ok, if we do this, this will happen.’ So, as we go, we’re trying to make sure that whatever the biggest issues are, are corrected and with some young players working in there as well, just like we talked with the offensive line, when you’re running games and you’re running things that require communication or require all four players to see, it could be the point of the center, it could be something with the quarterback. There are a bunch of different things but they all have to see it at the same time. That coordination takes a little time as well. We’re going to keep pushing that forward. We obviously want to generate as much pass rush as we can and the coverage needs to do their part as well, so it all works together.”
Why hasn’t DT Tank Carradine gotten more snaps this season?
“Well, one of the things that we do have is depth at the defensive line position. And, we’re trying to get as many guys that are up for the game as many snaps as possible and evenly distribute that, so that going into the fourth quarter we can be as fresh as possible. So, it’s not something that he’s doing poorly to where we’re trying to not play him more. Some of it is guys like DL Arik Armstead’s doing a nice job. So, you’re balancing out trying to get all those different guys that come to the game to contribute and to contribute in as meaningful a way as possible.”
The last play against the Ravens, it looked some of the guys were trying to get on the field. Some guys were waiving them off. Some guys were coming on. It looked a little chaotic –?
“Yeah, those plays can be real chaotic.”
But, did you want timeout or what was going on and were you a little nervous before that throw in the air?
“Yeah, whenever that ball goes up it’s like, OK. You practice those situations. We’ve had three of them already in a couple different games. That’s typically a season’s worth. But, it’s with that time in the game, it’s so important for us to communicate as quickly and effectively as possible. The guys that are on the field, because you put in a very specific group for that play, who have practiced that play over and over again. So, as they come on they’ve got to get the right person off the field too. So, it’s part of that as well. Would you like a timeout prior to that? If you can, you’d like too. Sometimes you want to see what formation they are coming out in because then you can coordinate exactly where you want the spots to be. But, when that ball goes up it’s always, you’re not holding your breath, but, well, yeah a little bit. You are.”
We had a chance to talk to CB Kenneth Acker yesterday. Obviously the defensive secondary has been out for a lot of passing downs just these past couple of games. Is that something you’ve had to monitor at all, just to make sure their legs are remaining fresh during the week?
“Yeah, it’s a little bit like we talked about with Bo. You’d like to bring other guys in and work other guys in. It’s tough in the secondary, because the starters get the majority of the reps during the week. The other guys will get reps, but they have to get rep at left corner, right corner, some guys have to work inside. They are playing multiple spots. And, you don’t, like defensive line where you don’t typically take those guys out very much and they’re in great shape. And better shape over the last two weeks.”