SANTA CLARA — Here is the transcript of Greg Roman’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“Good afternoon. First of all, congratulations to the Giants. What a game, huh? Some high drama there at the end. What they’ve done is pretty remarkable. I know the city’s just pretty excited, as well they should be. Here we are facing the Rams again, division opponent, very good team. Come off our game, beat the Seahawks at home. Here we are again. We’ve spent a lot of time on the bye week kind of internalizing what we’ve done. As always trying to improve. Looking at their defense, the guy that’s really, really emerged, pretty much starting in our game, is [DT] Aaron Donald. He’s a really good football player, very active. Can play a lot of different ways. He can penetrate. He can play at the line but has got exceptional quickness, speed and very good strength to get off blocks. He’s been showing up quite a bit. Obviously, [DE] Robert Quinn, we’ve got the utmost respect for him and his game. [DT Michael] Brockers, [DT Kendall] Langford, [DE William] Hayes, and then they roll through [DE Eugene] Sims, [DE Alex] Carrington and [DT Ethan] Westbrooks, so, there’s a lot of guys coming through. [LB Alec] Ogletree, [LB James] Laurinaitis and [LB Jo-Lonn] Dunbar understand that system very well and do a great job. They’ve been banged up a little bit, so, probably won’t know who’s going to be playing until game day, whether it be [CB E.J.] Gaines and [CB Marcus] Roberson, [CB] Trumaine Johnson, [CB Janoris] Jenkins, you’re just not quite sure on the backend. Then they added the safety, [Mark] Barron, who we’ve got some familiarity with. Rams do a great job. Got a lot of respect. Every game against them is a dogfight. It’s a division game, that’s how division games go. Looking forward to the challenge. Any questions?”
Are you confident that C Marcus Martin is up for the challenge?
“Oh, yeah. Feel great about Marcus. It’s his first start, so keep that in mind. At the same time, love his approach, love his preparation and like what I see out on the practice field most importantly. He’s got a big, stiff challenge this week with that front of the Rams. We’re very familiar with them. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from the Rams, either. They’re very creative and do a great job on defense. There might be some new things he’s got to sort out during the course of the game.”
It says Donald is listed at something like 285 pounds. Is that typically something that you guys will encounter at that position or is he unique at that size and gives him that extra quickness?
“He’s unique. He’s got a low center of gravity. That can create a lot of issues form a leverage standpoint relative to what you see at times. And then he’s got great, quick-twitch explosiveness, so he can get off quickly. So now, you’re dealing with somebody who’s gotten off on the snap so quickly and he maybe has a half of step on what somebody else might have with this guy’s center of gravity, is that much lower. That’s hard to contain at times, so you got to get off on the count and really play with good quickness.”
Did you see anything during the bye week as far as your own self-scout that kind of popped up when looking at the first seven games?
“I think the big theme we’re trying to grasp and understand is just consistency and playing good football, good team football, being consistent, doing a lot of very good things. A lot of the things we’re setting out to do we’re accomplishing, but we’re looking to do it with a greater consistency. And, really, we’re just always trying to improve. That never stops.”
With the lack of consistency, how much can you look at just the lack of continuity, especially on the offensive line, being a reason for that?
“That’s just part of the game in the NFL. When I say more consistency, it’s that close in certain things and very identifiable and correctable. It’s really just a bunch of little things. Guys in-and-out of the lineup, that’s life in the NFL. I’m sure the Rams have those issues. Everybody does. It comes with the territory.”
You guys haven’t had to deal with that much, though, these last few years. That offensive line has been stable almost year-in-year-out until this year. Has that been challenging from a play-call perspective on what you know you can do as opposed to just kind of theorizing what you hope might happen?
“I like how you put that. Here’s what I know and here’s what I hope. No, not at all. We’ve been very fortunate to be relatively healthy at that position. We’ve had some issues during the course of games the past couple of years. I remember against the Rams last year, in particular at home. But we’ve been very fortunate, very fortunate. We’re very excited about this group that’s assembled right now. Really excited for Marcus for him to get his chance. I like what I’m seeing in practice.”
Do you have a sense that TE Vernon Davis has benefitted from the bye week? He’s over those nagging injuries and looking to have a bigger second half?
“I do. I think he’s back to form. He’s been playing through some things, which always commands a deep bow from me. Not always going to be 100 percent, but he’s gutted his way through it. I think he’s got a very focused glare when it comes to what he wants to accomplish from here on out.”
How was RB Marcus Lattimore’s practice yesterday?
“It was good, very good. It was great to see him out there. He worked with coach [running backs coach Tom] Rathman after practice extra and got with some of the defensive players and got some contact work, which was really good. And I know they looked at that this morning in a pretty early meeting. He’s got his window and there’s a good plan in place to kind of progress him through that window and see where he’s at. Was pretty darned pleased.”
What do you need to see from him before you start carving out a role potentially on the active roster?
“You know, that’s a good question. Really, just constant improvement throughout these next three weeks and just how he moves. Really everything about his game, there’s just a way it should look, just seeing that come into focus.”
He said yesterday that he didn’t feel very confident last year when he was practicing. Did you notice that last year and have you seen an improvement this year?
“Well, if he said it. If he said it I’d trust him. [49ers head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] and I were talking last night, definitely noticed some improvement.”
How do you guys, with pass protection being such a huge part of what he’ll be asked to do eventually, how do you even simulate trying to put a guy on the ground with cut blocks? How do you approach that?
“Well, [CSNBayArea.com reporter] Matt [Maiocco], we’ve got the man for the job, one of the greatest cut-blocker in the history of the National Football League, Tom Rathman. Tom spends a very, very thorough block of time with these guys. Any drill that you can possibly use to simulate it he will use. I think our running backs have a very good understanding of how important that part of the game is. They’ve got a great leader in the room with [RB] Frank Gore, who is second to none when it comes to that. He’s been hearing it and seeing it and now, he’s getting into Tom’s routine of working those drills. And that’s all you can do. We’re not going to sign somebody and use them as a chopping dummy.”
What type of things did the defensive players do with him as far as contact today or yesterday, whenever that happened?
“All the different phases of contact that they might encounter as a running back, whether it’d be pass protection, contact on the boundary as a ball carrier, contact up the middle from the right, from the left, being able to move in space with a defender as you block him, adjust to different pass rush moves, a spin move, a push-pull, a swim, all those different types of things. And ball-security work as well. It’s pretty well rounded.”
WR Stevie Johnson has had a lot of production in a relatively smaller role. Do you look at in the second half of the season him getting more snaps? I realize it’s a juggling act with all of the guys you have.
“Stevie is doing a really, really good job. It’s hard to keep him off the field. As long as he continues to produce like that, which I’m sure he will, he’s going to continue to see more opportunities. Couldn’t be happier with Stevie, his production, his approach to the game and the standard he carries himself with. He’s a great guy, great team guy.”
I don’t know exactly what the numbers are, but it seems like the majority of his catches come on third down. Is that part of the reason you guys brought him in? Did you see this guy could be a third-down target for us?
“Stevie can play at a high level on any down. In known passing situations or gotta-have-it type situations, that’s when the defense probably knows what you’re doing and you probably know what you’re doing, so let’s get those guys out there and get the first down. Let’s not pigeonhole him into that only. I feel good about him on every down, as we do all of our receivers. But to your point on Stevie, couldn’t be happier with him.”
Getting back to consistency, is it harder to be consistent this year when you’re doing so many different types of things? Five wide receivers one game, three tight ends the next. When you’re doing more, is it harder to kind of get good at all of those things when you’ve got so many things that you’re trying to do?
“Interesting. No. No, I mean, really, the illusion of doing more things is not, don’t buy into the fact that we’re really doing that many more things. We’re probably doing less things. But that might change this week, you never know.”
You’ve never been a four or five-receiver team?
“We’ve gotten in empty quite a bit. Just now, we’ve got different guys getting out there on empty. It’s the same plays, same quarterback read. Guys are running the routes they might run out of one-back or two-back. Same thing, just moving the shells around. But no, absolutely not.”
Would you say you’re doing less things?
“You could argue that.”
How would you argue that?
“I can’t get into that right now. And that might change this week. I don’t think we’re reinventing the wheel right now. Feel good about who we’re putting out there. Game-to-game, situation-to-situation, we’ve just got to strive to get better in each situation. I think guys are out there doing things that we have great confidence in them doing.”
What’d you see from G/C Dillon Farrell in the offseason and training camp to come from undrafted status to making this active roster?
“Dillon did a really good job of, with injuries now all of a sudden he’s playing center, bam, jumps in to play center, doesn’t blink. The stuff we do on offense he had no problem internalizing and we saw a combination of athleticism and savvy for a young guy. There’s always things for our young guys to work on, really everybody. We see the potential there to develop into a winning player.”
Is he your backup center?
“He might be. That’ll kind of come later in the week.”
I know that WR Michael Crabtree’s yards after the catch, run after the catch numbers are way down from a couple of years ago. It used to be more than six and now it’s fewer than four. What are you seeing from him?
“I think the best for Michael is yet to come. I just think there’s been a few plays here and there that he might want to have back. At the same time, he’s doing some really good things, looks really good at practice and I would say the best from him is yet to come.”