SANTA CLARA —
This is the transcript of Jim O’Neil’s Tuesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“Alright. Hopefully everybody had a good Halloween. You guys didn’t miss me too much over the Bye Week, but it was very productive on our end. It was good to be able to dig into a lot of the self-scout stuff and then look ahead to some of the opponents that we have coming up on the schedule. It was also great to see our guys this morning. We focused on us in our hour and 15-minute morning, just each position group, what we need to do better, what techniques we need to improve on and just kind of look back over the first seven games and just where we can grow and develop as a group and as a defense. Excited to get out on the practice field today. Questions?”
I guess the top question is what did the week away, what did you discover that can help you guys tighten up that run game?
“We’ve got to tackle better. We’ve got to do a better job getting off blocks. I think that those are the, if there’s two things that jumped out off the tape, those would probably be the two biggest things. Then the last thing is just consistency. At times we defend the run really well. It’s just not consistent enough for four quarters. You let a 44-yard run out. You let a 45-yard run out. Your run totals are never going to be good when that happens. If it was just one guy, that one guy wouldn’t be playing. It’s just, we’ve just got to tighten everything up as a group and like I said, those three things are the biggest things that we took out of it.”
As far as the getting off blocks, when you have two young defensive linemen, tall guys like DL Arik Armstead and DL DeForest Buckner, what can they do to be able to get off those blocks and not get washed away?
“Well, I don’t think the height thing has much to do with it. I think that actually, the more length you have as a player, it’s easier to escape blocks. It gives you more space between you and the blocker. I just think it’s something that everything, at every level of the defense you go through. You learn that if your pads get up in this league, you’re going to get knocked off the ball or you’re going to get knocked back by a wide receiver stalk blocking you. So, it’s just those guys, it’s not like their pads are high all the time. But, you know as the game goes on and the plays start to mount, as you get tired, the tendency might be to popup a little bit and it happened a couple times in the last game and they got knocked off the ball as a result of it. Those guys will learn from those plays and they’ll be better next week.”
ME: How do you assess the gap integrity along the D-Line in particular?
“I don’t know what you mean by that.”
ME: How would you assess each individual defensive lineman and their ability to maintain their responsibility in their gap? If you ask, say, Buckner, to be responsible for the B-gap. Is he doing that?
The pad level issue that you talked about, is that really tough for young players to break because I know Cleveland Browns NT Danny Shelton went through it last year too?
“Yeah. I think that some of those guys are so big, they’re so strong, they’re so athletic, they’re such good football players, there’s stuff that they can get away with at the college level that when now you’re in the NFL, you’re playing against grown men who have been in the league for eight, nine, 10 years who understand pad level. It’s just something, it’s part of the learning curve. Yeah, I think every young player goes through it. I don’t think it’s just D-Linemen. It’s linebackers when a guard climbs on them to block them, how to sink your weight, how to stunt a guy and then how to get off blocks. It’s DBs, even in their backpedal and coming out of their breaks. If you’re not low and you’ve got to sink your weight before you’ve got to transition, you have no chance to cover an intermediate route in this league. So, it’s every level. It’s all young guys. It’s something that they learn as they come into the league.”
Are these the type of plays that are causing the 44-yard runs, when they’re–?
“No. The type of plays that cause 44-yard runs is an outside backer running up field, an inside backer not reading his key and then the DB missing a tackle. That’s what causes 44-yard runs.”
So, this isn’t like a prevalent issue, their pad level, that you’re trying to get them to–?
“When you have low pads, it gives you a chance to make plays. When you’re not playing low, obviously, your chance of making plays goes way down.”
Were there any guys during the, I know they had the mandatory four days off, but were there any guys who came in on their time off to meet with you guys, to see what they could do better?
“I talked to a couple guys on the phone. There was interaction. Most of the guys that were around were the guys rehabbing, like [CB] Rashard Robinson, [LB] Aaron Lynch. Those guys were here throughout the whole week with [vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg working on stuff. I know some guys came in and got a workout. Sometimes it’s good to get away for a little bit because while you’re here you invest so much and it’s such a mental and physical grind. That Bye Week’s huge for just getting away, hitting the reset button, coming back and being ready to go for the remainder of the season.”
There’s dropped pad level, but also one thing that head coach Chip Kelly mentioned was putting the players in a position to be successful. So, when you look at the young players, like let’s go back to DeForest, and he’s in that 3-4, from a coaching standpoint is he in a good position from where he is learning this NFL system right now and the speed and taking on those blockers?
“Well, yeah. He was drafted here to be a 3-4 defensive end. That’s what he is.”
No, I understand. But, the NFL with the speed is different. I mean, do you see him just picking that up–?
“Yeah. You’re talking about DeForest?”
“Yeah. I think DeForest is doing a great job for us. Are there some plays that he wishes he had back? Sure. He’s a rookie. Are there things that we could maybe do at times to put him in better position? Yeah. But, I’m not down on what we drafted him here to do for us.”
I’m not saying that. I’m just wondering when you look at the first eight games, is there positioning that you guys can help him with? That’s all I was wondering.
The lower man always wins. DL Ronald Blair is a player who always plays with good leverage, knows how to get off and stack and shed and knows when to shed. Stacking’s not a problem for him. Why haven’t we seen more of him in the run game?
“He is involved in the run game and he’ll continue to be a part of what we’re doing.”
How do you tackle the challenge of facing New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and giving him different looks? I mean, this guy has seen everything in his NFL career.
“There’s some stuff you can do pre-snap, but like you said, he’s seen a lot of it before. He does a great job getting the ball out. He’s a hard quarterback to hit. They do a really good job protecting him. It’s a great scheme. They’ve been in it together for 10 years. So, there’s been a lot of continuity there. There’s not too many things that they haven’t seen as an offensive staff and personnel-wise with those guys. But, you’ve got to out-execute them. He’s going to know where to go with the ball. We’re going to have that guy covered. You’ve got to make a play.”
What are you expecting from CB Will Redmond in practice this week?
“Just for him to take another step, hopefully for him to get a step closer to being back.”
Was he here during the Bye?
“Yeah. I’m sure he was around working out.”
DeForest has played a lot of snaps, I think all but a couple this last game. Is that a concern moving into the second half of the season that you want to make sure that he’s not getting too many throughout the course of the year and he doesn’t hit some sort of wall?
“No. The guys that we think give us the best chance to win, we want them out on the field as much as they possibly can. When they need a blow, we get them a blow. So, we get them a break. But, for us to win football games, DeForest Buckner has to be out there for 80-percent of the plays. Arik Armstead has to be out there for 80-percent of the plays. [LB] Ahmad Brooks has to be out there. [S] Antoine Bethea has to be out there. [DB] Jimmie Ward, when he’s healthy, has to be. There’s guys that we need to be out there for us to win football games and play good defense.”
Is there a sense that DL Glenn Dorsey will be, as he gets farther away from that rehab from the ACL, will be increasing his snap count as we go forward?
“Yeah. I hope so. He was a big part of our plans as far as a guy that could help us in the middle of the defense. So, yeah. We hope.”
Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins told us the coaching staff met and kind of had a pow-wow. Do you guys ever get the scouts involved in watching the film and what kind of communication is going on with the scouting department?
“Chip more handles that. I think you’d have to ask him. I know he watches tape after the game with the guys upstairs and explains a lot of the stuff from the coaching end. For us, we’re more, bang-bang-bang, get the tape graded and then we move on to the next opponent.”
You’ve allowed, after almost every turnover the offense has committed, allowed points. A lot of times is because the opponent’s taking over deep in your own territory. Obviously, you can’t help some of that, but have you noticed, mentality-wise, guys being deflated? ‘Oh, there’s another turnover and they have the ball at the 30-yard line.’ Is that something that needs to be improved?
“Yeah. It’s something we’ve talked about. I think we talked about that two weeks ago. Chip’s brought that up to the team. You can’t ride the roller coaster in an NFL football game. You’ve got to stay consistent. You can’t ride the roller coaster throughout an NFL season. You’ve got to stay consistent. But, our mentality is no matter what situation we get put in, it’s more TV time for us. It’s another chance to compete. It’s another chance for us to take the field and make plays and help our football team win a game. So, that’s the mentality that we’re preaching to our group. That’s what we want.”
ME: You said you need to put DeForest Buckner in a better position. Have you considered moving him out of the middle and over to the edge?
“He does play, on the edge do you mean like four-technique on the tackle?”
ME: No. I mean like defensive end in sub-packages?
ME: No? Why?
“Because he’s better suited inside.”