This is the transcript of Eric Mangini’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“We’re following our normal procedures. So, we’re on to third down, red zone today. A little bit more familiarity with Seattle the second time around for our young guys and for everybody in general. So, it will be an exciting game to play, as it always is with these guys.”
What occupied your time last week during the Bye Week? What did you try to figure out about your defense?
“Well, we went through the core coverages, looked at how those were playing and we went through the core fronts. And you try to do it systematically where you’re obviously look at problem areas first and working down. And then, as you go through, because you get the statistics, but often times coverage or a front or a defense can look really good, but there’s some outliers that it really isn’t as effective as you thought it was. And the same thing where the yards per carry against that defense aren’t very good, but there’s one long run. And then it’s ‘OK, why did that happen?’ Was it a function of a missed tackle? Was it a function of a guy being out of his gap? And that happens sometimes in games too where you call stuff and something hits it and if you can’t see exactly where the problem was, then you’re questioning is this not a very good call or did we not play it as well as we could? And, we always talk to players about that. Look, if something happens, tell us the truth. We have tape. We’re going to see it. We don’t want to get talked out of stuff because of that. That was most of the week is going through and looking at that. And then, also looking at things that we have in the playbook, or that we practiced during OTAs or training camp or the early part of the season, things that we may want to come back to as we’ve gotten to know our players, as we’ve gotten to understand things that guys are good at, things that guys aren’t necessarily as effective at. So, it’s weighing all that out and thinking, ‘OK, short term and long term, what do we like for Seattle and then what do we like over the next block of games?’ Then I saw some flag footballon Sunday, about eight hours’ worth, got this cold because it was freezing. It’s not supposed to be like this in California, it wasn’t right.”
What’s your take on DL Arik Armstead? Speaking to some of the players, they feel that he has earned the team’s trust through hard work and his work ethic. As far as consistency is concerned, that’s one of the things coming in that head coach Jim Tomsula said that he wasn’t as consistent. What’s your take as a coach as far as his progress is this far?
“He’s had really good progress. And typically what you see is about this time, Game 8, Game 9, right in this range, the young guys jump. Especially if they’ve been playing a decent amount through the course of the season because everything slows down for them. They’re used to game planning. They’re used to what it feels like to play in an NFL game. They get that sense of, ‘Hey, not only do I belong, but I can excel here.’ A lot of those firsts are out of the way and now it’s routine and there’s a comfort level there. What Arik’s had since he showed up, and remember he missed a bunch of time because of the way the schedule was setup with school, he showed up and he had obviously been studying everything we asked him to study, because he had a great understanding of what we were trying to get done. He’s got an excellent work ethic. He’s easy to coach. He’s a good guy. He’s got a high motor. I think the thing that he’s going to constituently have to work at is being as long as he is, being able to stay down and maintaining that leverage position. It’s really hard for guys of his height to not pop up, but he’s worked at it and he continues to work at it and that’s another thing that he experienced. And, you figure, he doesn’t have, all these guys don’t have that strength that will come in a few years as they get a little bit older. So, he’s got a great upside.”
Is it a confidence builder for your defense to hold Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman to 12-yards against the Falcons going into a matchup with Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch?
“Yeah, a little different package between the two guys. A little different running game with the two schemes, but that was a tough group that we played last week. Not just what they did running the football, but the play-action off the running game. [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt Ryan, to me, is a really smart quarterback. I like the scheme. And then, we had some guys that were playing spots that they hadn’t played before and playing in games when they hadn’t played before. So, you had that unknown as well. I was really proud of the way that those guys that went in responded. And then, the older guys helping them through the game, [LB NaVorro Bowman] Bo is a guy as we talked about it, a lot of young players out there that he had to work with and navigate through the defenses with. So, yeah, long answer.”
Have you talked to NaVorro? Obviously it’s the return to Seattle since he’s been injured. Even a veteran like himself, have you had any conversations about that with him?
“No, I haven’t talked to him specifically about that at all. But, I don’t know if someone told me, when he was talking about it how the one thing that he regretted was the fact that he didn’t hold onto the ball, which doesn’t surprise me in terms of the answer that he would give. And, I don’t know what the range of emotions is there. It wasn’t really field related, it was one of those types of things that’s freaky and sometimes happen and there’s no great explanation for why it happens. Not necessarily tied to the location. But, yeah, I’m not sure where he’s at with that.”
You had mentioned earlier just learning what your players do best, what to shy away from. How big is that and do you feel now, it looked like that defense was starting to play pretty well right before the break. Do you feel like you have a better grasp of what you can call and what you can’t call for your personnel?
“Yeah you do. And some of it’s not just what you can and can’t call. It’s how specific you can get versus each opponent, the range that you can have. Yeah, the strengths and weaknesses, the matchups, all that stuff as we go through games together, as we go through weeks together, as we go through practices together, you get a much better feel for guys and they get a much better feel for us as coaches and there tends to be a jump there as well.”
Have you guys simplified things? Have you tried to just kind of scale back what you’ve done?
“I don’t think we’re overly complicated to begin with. And with our guys, they work at it and there’s a lot of smart guys and they care. So, I feel very comfortable with whatever we put in that we are going to execute it. Now, what happens is sometimes you get some stuff that comes out that is a little bit different or radically different and guys have to work through that. But, we have a good group in terms of working at the game plan and making it right.”
Did you know much about secondary coach Tim Lewis before he got here? Can you just comment? He’s working with primarily first-second year guys in the secondary, just what type of job he’s done so far this year?
“Tim’s done a really good job. I didn’t really have a relationship with any of these guys prior to them getting here, which is a little unique just because typically, [defensive assistant] Mick Lombardi, we were both on offense and [defensive assistant Ejiro Evero] EJ, those were the guys that I was most familiar with. Yeah, Tim’s done a great job and he’s got a good balance of teaching. He’s got a firmness that’s consistent. He can deliver news in a lot of different ways and it’s effective in a lot of different ways, which I like about him. And, what I like about Tim and [linebackers coach] Clancy [Pendergast] and [senior defensive assistant/linebackers] Jason [Tarver], all the guys is that they’ve all been coordinators. They’ve all gone through the different experiences. So, there’s some good give and take that way. And, they appreciate the challenges of being in the different spots.”
It seemed at just looking at some of your personnel against the Falcons you would thought they would throw for 600-yards. Did Tim’s background with the Flacons, was that beneficial at all as far as defending them?
“To some degree. The familiarity kind of cuts both ways because they’re familiarity with how you like to play stacks or how you like to play bunches or how you like to play different types of sets can work against you. Just like your familiarity in what they like to do out of those things. Often times, I know playing New England, you give them what they expect and then they do something else out of it and it was always that back and forth where it was great that you knew things about the other guy and they knew things about you and then it was just a function of who changes the most and how much did it look like what it looked like before and all that stuff, which is a good part of it. But, those young guys that played, [CB] Marcus Cromartie I thought did an outstanding job. There’s a guy that you love to cheer for. He’s got a great work ethic, consistently takes coaching and you love seeing those guys work their way up and get opportunities and then when they get an opportunity to play like he played. So, I was excited for him and [CB] Chris [Davis], is a guy that really was just getting to know him. It’s like, ‘Off you go. You’re in.”
So, what is the plan for Marcus this Sunday?
“Yeah, we’re going to see where [CB Kenneth Acker] Ack is and [CB] Tramaine [Brock]. So, they’re pushing along through practice. We’ve got to get to the end of the week and really the last game we weren’t sure how it was going to go all the way up until game time. I think we’ll get a much better feel a little earlier. But, with any injuries sometimes you think it’s one thing and it changes overnight. But, he’s working, he’s getting reps, they’re all getting reps and prepping like they’re going to play and they’re going to play a lot.”
Statistically, Marshawn isn’t having the season that we’re accustomed to him having. What do you attribute that to?
“I don’t know. He looked pretty good when we played him. He looked good the other night. He’s strong. He’s got a great stiff-arm. If you try to tackle him high, he’ll throw you off, he’ll bat you off. He’s tough. He’s aggressive. His numbers, I mean, that could be a lot of different things. I don’t know exactly what it is, but in terms of the player that he is, he’s hard to deal with and he brings an attitude to running the football that not all backs have.”
He had fewer than 10 carries on Sunday. I’m wondering, when you watch them do you see defenses doing more to try to stop him and force the Seahawks to throw the ball more?
“Some of that may have been the score of the game. When you get behind a certain amount it’s harder to catch up as quickly running the ball. So, it’s hard when you want to run the ball and you’re behind and you’ve got to go to either hurry-up mode or heavy passing. That could attribute it. In terms of people trying to stop him, you’ve got to stop him and then you’ve got to stop [Seattle Seahawks QB] Russell [Wilson] and there’s a lot of different problems. He drops back, he can throw it deep, he can move around, extend plays. So, if you just focus on that there’s problems down the field that they get you with.”