SANTA CLARA — Here’s the transcript of Jim O’Neil’s Monday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“We had a great trip out to Denver. I thought it was a great experience for our football team. I thought our support staff did an unbelievable job making the coaches’ jobs easy and the players’ jobs east. On the field, just practicing against Denver for those two days and playing against them, there was a lot of teachable moments that came up for our guys, a lot that we can learn and grow from. Off the field, I thought we really had the opportunity to connect as a football team. That’s always fun to do when you are kind of bunkered away for five days. You really get to know some guys that you probably wouldn’t if you’re just staying at your own place. As far as the game on Saturday night, I was happy with how we finished. Obviously, we won the game. Much better than the previous week. We were able to generate four turnovers and steal a few possessions for our guys, and just the timeliness of some of those turnovers in sudden-change situations, two minute, were big time stops for us as a group. And then I thought the guys up front did a really good job affecting the quarterback. We were able to hit him with some of our pressures. We were able to get there when we rushed four, so that was great to see. Guys from the first and second level of the defense. As far as some things we need to clean up, I didn’t like the way we started. We didn’t do a good job getting them off schedule on the first drive of the game, and then our third down penalties need to decrease. I think we had four in the game, and defensively, that’s like a defensive turnover. Any time you are off the field on third down and then there’s a yellow flag on the ground that can be very frustrating, so we’ve got to clean those two things up.”
You did recover from that first drive pretty quickly. What was going on? What was the difference between drive one and drive two for them?
“I thought they did a good job executing and they took what we gave them, and we just didn’t make any plays to get them behind schedule. The one play we made on [LB] NaVorro’s [Bowman] sack, it got called back because of a defensive holding penalty. That would have given them second-and-16, now you feel good about winning the next two plays because they’re behind schedule. Instead, it was first-and-10, second-and-short, second-and-medium, third-and-manageable instead of it being second-and-long, third-and-long, putting them in more predictable situations. But, the guys settled in and we made a couple of adjustments and then I liked how we finished the half.”
Your defensive front, you didn’t have a lot of guys obviously. Some guys didn’t dress and a couple got hurt. Kind of looking ahead in a couple of weeks, we haven’t seen DL Glenn Dorsey out on the practice field. How do you gauge where he is going to be able to fit into that defensive rotation just from your history of learning what he can do?
“Right now, I’m excited to get him back whenever he does come back. But, just off of what he’s done in the past. You kind of fit him into a part of your plan based off of what he put on tape last year and all the previous years he’s been in the NFL and try to deploy him that way, what are his strengths.”
Do you see him as a guy that can play any of those spots that he has in the past?
“Absolutely, he could play nose. He could play either end.”
Do you expect him for Week 1?
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that. You would have to talk to [head coach Chip Kelly] coach or [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg. I know he is working really hard in rehab right now. He looks really good in some of our individual drills. When they decide to let him go is on them.”
With NT Ian Williams out, would you expect to give Glenn more of a chance at nose after playing end last year?
“We’ll play the best three. So, it’s whoever the best three are, we’ll figure it out from there. And then obviously we are going to have some guys that are going to come in and take some reps.”
What are you seeing from NT Garrison Smith? He seems to have flashed at nose tackle?
“Yeah, he’s taking advantage of his opportunity. He made a huge third-and-one play a couple of weeks ago against the Texans and then he had some really nice plays this past week. He was all over the field. When you are talking about those guys, are they on the roster or are they not on the roster? That’s what you’re looking for, guys that are going to show up when they are given the opportunity, and he’s done that.”
How has he done on the day-to-day, just at camp?
“Real good, real good. Solid, gets his job done, he’s very smart pre-snap, and you guys have heard me talk about this before; one of the things I think going against coach’s offense and how fast they move, it makes you think fast. So now when you go against a normal offense, it just gives you extra time to think. So, Garrison’s a guy that can do a really good job studying backfield sets, maybe line splits, how a guy is leaning in his stance, and then he can hedge his bet on making a play and you guys have seen the results. He can gather pre-snap information, ‘Alright, I know this is happening or this is happening’ and then go make a play. He’s shown two weeks now that he can do that.”
At this point, are you prepared to say that DB Jimmie Ward will be a starting cornerback on this team Week 1?
“Yeah, it’s looking that way right now. He hasn’t really been tested in a game yet, but he’s done a great job in the three practices we’ve had against other teams and in both preseason games. But, [CB] Rashard Robinson’s coming, [CB Keith] Reaser’s coming, there’s a lot of guys that are playing really well right now that are going to continue to push Jimmie and [CB Tramaine] Brock, so those guys know they need to show up every day.”
You’ve talked about creating schemes or packages for certain guys, and LB Marcus Rush is a guy who seems like he has a different physical skill set then a lot of the other outside linebackers. Is he a guy that you might envision, if he makes the team, putting him in a position that fits his skill set similar to the way you’ve talked about other guys?
“You know, I wasn’t here last year with Marcus. I think [outside linebackers coach] Jason Tarver has done a great job developing him. He was on the practice squad last year. I know he has completely changed his body from year one to year two. I see him as a complete outside backer. He can rush the quarterback, he can set edges in the run game and he’s very good in pass coverage with what we ask him to do. The thing I like about Marcus is on the day of that game, I went down and part of my pregame ritual is I always take a personnel guy and I will call the game, he’ll give me personnel, it’s [defensive quality control coach] Tem Lukabu, one of our defensive assistants. And when I went down to the film room to call that game, Marcus was down there studying tape for probably about an hour, hour and a half. It’s just good to see a guy put in the extra work and he’s studying tackles and he’s studying formations and then he goes out and he has a three sack performance and he plays really well. For me, that was good to see. It’s stuff that you guys probably don’t see, but seeing him put in the extra work and then reap the rewards of it was nice.”
Did you sense he was disappointed he didn’t get that fourth one?
“I’m sure he was. A three sack game is a hell-of-a game. A four sack game is pretty damn rare.”
Just following up on that, what have you seen out of him during practice? Were you expecting him to have one of those outstanding performances during the game?
“Yeah, I mean Marcus has done a really nice job in practice. Obviously, he popped off the tape this past week. But, you can’t ignore production. So, he’s a guy that if guys play like that they’re going to get a little bit more during practice and we will see what they can do.”
Can you walk us through S Eric Reid’s interception and was that quarters coverage or was that a cover two where Eric Reid just kind of had a green light to kind of go up and bite on that?
“We were in quarters and you guys have heard me talk a lot about we want guys that are productive, trust your coaching, trust what you see and go. Eric did that. He knew he was protected over the top. They ran the right route, Eric took a shot, the quarterback threw him the ball and he did an unbelievable job going to score with it.”
What have you seen form CB Will Redmond?
“Really smart football player. I don’t know if he is all the way back yet, but he’s doing a hell-of-a job for us and he’s a guy I get excited about seeing every day out here.”
Do you expect him at some point to get on the field during one of these games?
And what gives you that optimism?
“Just the way he’s progressed throughout practice.”
So why hasn’t he been out there for two games?
“I’m not a part of that decision. That’s up to coach and Ferg and [director of human performance Mark Uyeyama] Uye when they talk about who is available for game day and who is not.”
But, he’s doing everything out there during practice, right?
When you say almost, what’s the problem?
“We’re just monitoring his reps. It’s not a situation where, he’s not on a rep count, he can’t do everything that we want him to do right now. So, there are some things that we are still monitoring him with.”
Have you been able to mix and match your fronts? Where are you just kind of in the process of figuring out where guys fit the best at this point?
“Well, it’s hard when we’ve got some guys injured right now. But, we’re rolling with the guys we have and they did a good job in the game. I think [DL] Arik [Armstead] is doing a good job with his rehab. [DL DeForest Buckner] Buck had a really good day and a half up in Denver before they kind of erred on the side of just being careful with him. And then, we’re still waiting to get Dors back, but the guys that have been available for us have done a nice job. [DT] Quinton Dial has been rock solid in the run game. He’s actually done some really good things in the pass game, pushing the pocket. [NT] Mike Purcell’s been rock solid in the run game, we’ve talked about him. [DT] Tony Jerod-Eddie probably had our best hustle play of the preseason so far on the one tight end screen pass that got out on the sideline. He ran 30-yards downfield and was the one that pushed the tight end out of bounds, so that was awesome to see from him. So, that whole group’s really done a nice job. [Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro] Azz has been unbelievable with them as far as developing them and getting them rolling.”
DL Ronald Blair, you’ve used him so many different ways. Do you feel comfortable using him in all those ways or are you still kind of trying to figure out what he does best?
“Everywhere we put him he makes plays. So, I thought last week, Ronnie didn’t really fill up the stat sheet, but we talked about him being close to a lot of production and causing some production. This week you saw he was able to make three or four splash plays in that game and he’s just going to keep getting better with the more he plays. But yeah, I feel comfortable with him at nose, at end, outside backer. He’s going to be a guy that we move around. Offenses are going to have to find him and deal with him.”
When do you want to make a call on who is going to be that second inside linebacker next to NaVorro?
“I don’t have a timetable on it, I don’t. I thought all three guys played solid. They all made some plays. So, like I’ve said before, if it takes to Week 5, Week 6 in the season, I’m fine with that. I’m sure those guys would like to know, but I’m going to put the best 11 out there and if we have 12 or 13 that deserve to play, then those guys will play.”
Will LB Ray-Ray Armstrong start this upcoming game?
“We haven’t talked about that yet.”
Have you ever coached a guy with his frame at that inside linebacker? He seems a little taller and longer than others.
“At other places I’ve been, what we’ve had to do is in obvious passing situations, we’ve had to drop a safety down to play dime linebacker. With his skill set and him having the background of playing in the secondary and with some of the things we can do with him coverage-wise, we don’t feel right now like we need to do that as a defense. It is a little bit of a first for me, given how athletic he can be and the plays he can make in space.”
And does his length, is it problematic in any other place, as far as leverage–?
“No. Like we talked about last week, one of the question marks for Ray-Ray was how he would show up against the run in the box. And if you watched the film from the first two weeks, he’s been great.”
Would you consider using Armstrong in passing situations and maybe Hodges in run situations?
“It’s a possibility. We’ll take advantage of what those guys do best. I’m not sitting here saying that that’s what we’re going to do, but if somebody does something better than somebody else, we’re going to try to tailor our defense to our players’ strengths.”
If LB Nick Bellore can’t play on Friday, would LB Michael Wilhoite get the majority of those reps at MIKE behind NaVorro?
“Mike’s a guy that has been crossed-trained at WILL and MIKE, so that’s a possibility there and [LB] Shayne Skov’s done a nice job this preseason too. So, I feel comfortable with either one of those guys playing MIKE after NaVorro.”
But, Hodges and Ray-Ray have not played MIKE?
“No, Mike is the only WILL-dime linebacker that we’ve cross trained at MIKE and WILL.”