Offensive Coordinator Geep Chryst
"Alright, back at it. Tough loss against a division foe Seattle. So, you'll have some questions on that, I'm sure. And we're moving on to another tough opponent on the road. St. Louis is a talented defense and one that will provide some challenges, but we're confident with the game plan we've been putting in during the week that we've got some answers."
One of the things that head coach Jim Tomsula said Friday was that the break kind of allowed a time to really hone in on things and self-diagnose. How did you use that time?
"The first thing you look at there structurally as a coach, for example, we were using formations to try to, just take the Seattle game, one of the objectives going in even though it was a short week, we think [Seattle Seahawks S] Kam Chancellor is a really good safety. Since he's gotten back to that team, it's been a good team. We didn't want to give him any momentum plays. He's as big as a linebacker, has ball skills. So, we felt like we did an effective job of using formations to manipulate that. When they did bring pressure, the second series of the game for example, we had [TE] Vernon [Davis] one-on-one with 56, [Seattle Seahawks DE] Cliff Avril, a great matchup. Credit to Cliff Avril. He was on the backend of a blitz that we picked up with max protection. But, he ran with Vernon. Give him credit. That play didn't work. But, when you look at it from a coaching perspective you look at the personnel and how you're using it, formations which is a natural part of it, and then the plays that are complimenting to that formation. So, the last two chapters in both the Giants game and Baltimore game, those things had a way of working and Seattle's a good defense and they didn't work quite the same way. And, we're moving on to the Rams and the challenges because they're, again, a talented team, on the road, the challenges that they present."
Geep Chryst Previews Week 8 Matchup with Rams
When you face that defensive front then, is it a matter of using similar formations and plays or do you have to come up with something that's unique for the Rams?
"Right. That's the hard part. You want to be consistent with what you do, but you can't be predictable. You want to use your personnel groupings to get your best people on the field, but you can't do that on every down, time after time and become predictable. So, we feel like playing them twice a year that we've got a plan and we're trying to communicate that. We did a nice job yesterday, really coming back after a little bit of a break and then again today, just finishing a walk-thru. So, I think we've got a good, clear vision of what the game plan is, but it always varies from week to week without getting outside of your nature."
Jim also said after last game that you guys needed to shore up your pass protection and it's been a problem throughout the season. So, what changes are you trying to do? Is it personnel yet or is it still schematic?
"Well, again, you're trying to, again within that, the pocket is an intense place especially if the protection is getting edged and you're seeing that throughout. But, one of the things you want to be willing to do, a little bit like in the Baltimore and the Giants game, is throw on first and second down. You can't be, again, along the lines of predictable. Run, run, see how close you can get on third down and then, you know, try to come up with a third down play. So, you need that mix and balance within your offense. I think that's one of the best ways that you can do it so that not every time we drop back is there an issue with the protection, but you're trying to keep a defense off-balance and that's one way to do it. And then varying your protections, moving the pocket, all those things you've kind of heard us talk about all year because it is what it is and you're just trying to get better and improving. Again, we felt like we improved that aspect of the game with the Giants and with Baltimore, but not quite as improved against Seattle. So, we'll see where we're at with the Rams. It'll be a good challenge."
What needs to happen for you to decide on one player at right guard?
"You try to play to their strengths, right? So, you know, when we put [G Andrew] Tiller in there, he really provided a nice boost when we were in New York. Try to use him as a point of attack run game. We did some things in the run game and try to use his strengths. But, then you're trying to use [OL] Jordan's [Devey] strengths as well and then on the practice field you're trying to ramp up and get some of the young guys back and we've all got an eye on [G/C Daniel Kilgore] Kilgy and trying to hope he gets back in the mix too. So, we feel like we're making strides. But, when you face a talented defensive line like Seattle is or like the Rams are, you're going to be tested. And that's the challenge of the game."
Is C Marcus Martin going to get reps at right guard when Kilgore comes back?
"Right, when you only dress seven offensive linemen out for a game, you have to have swing guys. Traditionally the tackles are the swing guys. [G/T Alex] Boone is pretty unique in that he can play both guard and can swing to tackle. That protects us on game day. And then most of the time, the interior three, if you're a guard you should be able to play center. So, we've been repping, for example, Jordan Devey at center some just to keep that going. We've been repping Andrew Tiller at center. Those swing guys are critical when you only have seven dressed out for a game, especially if there's injuries."
You said ramp up and get the young guys back. What exactly do you mean there?
"OK, remember throughout all of fall camp, [OL] Ian Silberman for example, and [T] Trent Brown, we've been repping them a lot in practice. They've been getting quality reps in practice. If you think, we actually started Ian against Denver. Now, you look back in retrospect, we know how good Denver was having gone against them for two days. That's a quality opponent that he went against, but it was also a little bit of wake-up call because it's a different intensity with that defense and the third preseason game, traditionally the most game-like, to see where we're at. So, he's got some long range upside, but you're trying to get him to a spot where he feels confident playing in the game."
When you have the two right guards and one seems to be kind of a power guy--?
And one seems to be a little bit more move and finesse--?
Do you run the risk of becoming too predictable depending on which guy's in?
"Right. For example, the first drive of the second half we tried to run behind Andrew on a third-and-two, try to play to his strength. And, we had used a formation where if we get by that first wave, we're up to a corner who's a support player with [FB] Bruce Miller blocking. So, again, we felt good about that, but we just didn't match at the point of attack. And again, sometimes the defense made some plays. In that particular case, the defense made a play at the point of attack, we didn't get the first down. But, you look back at it, there was a design to it that we liked and we would've taken that matchup."
Along those lines of being a little too predictable, how hampered are you then in pass protection and not being too predictable when RB Carlos Hyde is not out there practicing?
"You know, the guy that's really quietly done a nice job has been Bruce Miller. We've used him some on third down. He understands the protections, because that's the hardest things for rookies. We've hard that for running backs coming in, or a guy like a [RB] Jarryd Hayne, that's really hard for him to understand all the subtleties within blitz pickup and all the protection and as a result I think Bruce provides a nice opportunity. He's got a nice savvy. So, guys like that help the line. We need to help understand how whether you're a receiver running a route a little bit quicker or a tight end maybe asked to block instead of going out for a pass. All that helps those five linemen because it's a tough job that they have."
Is WR Jerome Simpson ready to integrate--?
"He's done a nice job, when he hasn't played, of being engaged. He's really well liked in the locker room. So, we're just trying to get him back to running plays, plays that he's run in his past and trying to fit him in. Of course, that means you've got to move the checkers around a little bit in terms of those other receivers. We also have [WR] Bruce Ellington coming back and getting healthy. So, we really like where that position is going and again, we hope to get Jerome ramped up yesterday's practice, today's practice and then Friday because he's got a lot of juice."
How hampered is your running game right now though with Carlos and his foot, RB Reggie Bush and his calf, Jarryd and his relative inexperience? What are some of the things that you need to do there?
"Yeah, you just deal with it. I thought there were a couple runs there that really Carlos was phenomenal. There's a couple runs, again, we tried to use some formations where [WR] Anquan [Boldin] had to be a main part of the blocking element. A couple of those runs in the first half where Anquan did a hell-of-a job on Kam Chancellor, blocking really at the point of attack. So, within that, you've got to have your teammates help so that maybe it's a little bit better blocked so that, you know, you used to joke that you want to knock down all ten bowling pins. But, sometimes a good back makes that element that's unblocked miss. So, full credit to Carlos. I know that he feels bad about putting the ball on the ground, but I think that he's been tough and trying to go through it, but we've got to be smart. It's a long season and he's a good running back and I know that he's not as effective as he wants to be, but he wants to be out there. So, you need your teammates to help you out, whoever that is."
Along those lines, it seemed like Indianapolis Colts RB Frank Gore was really good at picking and choosing when he was going to get hit. If he saw guys, he would just hit the ground instead of taking a big hit where as Carlos tries to stay up and deliver as many hits as possible. Is that a topic of conversation? Do you guys ever address that?
"Not really. I think that all good running backs, Frank is phenomenal in terms of always taking a glancing blow instead of a full blow and Carlos never wants a play to end and he's made a lot of plays, including in this Seattle game, where he's stepping out of a tackle or spinning out of a tackle. But, there's a point at which the play is blocked for six and you get eight, don't try to get ten. And I think that just comes with experience. I don't think that his desire to get additional yards is a bad thing and the hits that he's taking, he's worked really hard to condition himself. I think it's just more specific to maybe where his foot is at in terms of effectiveness than, you know, spinning, trying to get an additional two or three yards. He's a competitive, tough player. We love having him on our team and we just want him back healthy as quick as possible."
A big picture question. You look at the stats, you're going to love this question, but you're last in points.
You're last in yards.
Three games, you've had ten first downs or fewer. Is this what the offense is capable of? Statistically, it's the worst offense in the league. Do you have the worst offense in the league?
"That's a fair question, but I would have to say right off the bat that when we came in before the Green Bay game, you have to play with the hand that you're dealt, whatever that hand is. And we felt, again, to throw some statistics back at you in terms of drive production, in the two games, [New York] and Baltimore, we had 20 drives. Of those 20 drives, we scored 11 times, five touchdowns and six field goals. Throughout the league for the last three decades, you basically score a touchdown one out of every five drives no matter what. So, if you're ahead of that, you're doing well. The other games, again, there's no secret that this organization wants to run the ball and when you're less effective running the ball or you get behind in games, that materially affects how many runs you're going to call. But, if we hadn't had the Giants and Baltimore game, I think I'd be really concerned. That being said, you have to own every game and ultimately have to get better with the challenges that are there within the offensive line, the challenges that are there within the running back. So, we like our long-term optimism for improvement, but you look at the statistics, they exist kind of on their own as factual, but they have to be taken in context. And the way we look at it is, every game is a chapter in which you've got to attempt to win and after two weeks, again, the frame of reference of again the Giants and Baltimore. We took a step back against a good Seattle team and we hope to right the ship and have a good game against St. Louis."
What can you draw on from QB Colin Kaepernick's last two outings in St. Louis and is that something--?
"Again, we've had to go in there, two years ago we had to go in there on a short week, Thursday night game, back against the wall because we had lost two games going into that and we came away with a hard-fought win. They were amped up for it. They felt like we were in a vulnerable position because I think the previous year in 2012, they went 5-1 within the NFC West and we had the upper hand there. Last year's game, remember we had a big long pass just before the two-minute drive and that was like it broke some ice and we end up scoring three touchdowns in the second half and made some big plays in addition to that. So, Kap's played well there. But, every season has it's own unique challenges. I think that you can draw from some of that, but you need to have your own game plan for this Sunday against this defense with where you're at with your team."
Quick follow-up on the Trent Brown, Ian Silberman. Would you say that those guys are close to being able to play or--?
"You know, that was the great value of preseason games right, because you can kind of put them out there and test where they are. You're looking to put them out in the games, the regular season it's a little bit harder within the continuity of the offensive line to rotate them, say you do with a defensive line. But, the best thing that we can do as coaches, which we have been doing, is you put them in practice situations and you have them compete. And they're competing out there, but sometimes we can draw an assessment about where they're at from practice. You know, they didn't pick up the right guy on a blitz. That's the same is true of running backs who are rookies as linemen who are rookies, for example. So, if you're playing a blitzing team and you're turning a defensive end free, say on one specific play, then that's probably not going to give you the confidence to be put in in a real game. So, you're trying to get better without ruining anyone's confidence."
And they are showing--?
"They're getting better. Yeah, they're getting better."
Defensive Coordinator Eric Mangini
"Good afternoon. We're, obviously, knee-deep in St. Louis prep. A different package than we saw last week. A lot of things they do that stress you throughout the perimeter of the defense and then the ability for them to run the ball effectively inside. It's one of the main challenges that we have this week is being able to cover the whole field, both in the run and passing game, as effectively as possible with the weapons that they have and the way that they use the weapons."
With S Eric Reid back there without S Antoine Bethea, is he able to kind of run the show by himself now do you think?
"Yeah, it was a really good situation in there with Antoine and Eric. They are both outstanding communicators, both very confident in what they are doing in the scheme. They had a good relationship. But, with [S] Jaquiski [Tartt] and [DB] Jimmie [Ward], they are both young guys, to me, that are going to be very good players. I love their work ethic. You've been able to see Jaquiski some back there. You see what he brings in terms of his ability to close to the football, his ability when he gets to the ball carrier to knock the ball carrier back, his strength in the hole, all of those things I think have been good. The biggest challenge for a young safety is feeling comfortable enough to take charge back there, because you have to take charge. You have to be definitive. You have to communicate to the whole group. Sometimes you grow up a little quicker than you anticipated because you're thrust into playing right away. But, he's been good. I'm sure you've seen him on tape sometimes, coming up in loud situations and communicating. He knows what he's doing. I feel very comfortable with him. I'm excited to see him play."
Eric Mangini Impressed by Jaquiski Tartt
Do you expect him to be tested? Is that something that you as a defensive coordinator expect when a rookie is in the situation that he is in?
"I think whenever you see a young guy out there you're going to see what you can do to him. You're going to see how much he knows. You're going to see how well he knows the things he's supposed to do. [Former NFL head coach] Ted Marchibroda used to always talk about that when we'd sit in quarterback meetings looking for 'the tell,' and he'd always start with the youngest guy. He'd always start with the rookie, because they are most likely to play it exactly the way it is in the diagrams, in the playbook. So, from a quarterback perspective you look out, you check for the youngest guy, 'OK, he's telling me what to do.' And then, you get your read off that. I always thought that was a great approach from an offensive perspective, because there is a lot of truth to that. Now, what I've liked with Jaquiski and Jimmie, and really [CB] Ken [Acker] has done a good job as we've gone on here of not giving it away, not being 'the tell,' Not being the one that shows what we're in."
He comes from a program though, that maybe most wouldn't think has kind of the pro influence. So, when you see him in meetings, what does Jaquiski bring that is just unique to him, that he has that wherewithal in his rookie year?
"Yeah, I loved him coming out of college. We watched a bunch of safeties and he was one of the last guys I ended up watching, and then I had to go double check to see whether or not they were setting me up to see how well I evaluated, because he just jumped off the screen with the plays that he made in college. And you worry, you don't worry, but there's always a transition for all these guys. Biggest program, smallest program, there is a transition. But then, from a small school, even though you belong, are you confident that you belong? Some guys take a little bit longer to feel that sense of, 'Hey, I'm here and I can compete and I can do really well with this group.' I've never gotten that from Jaquiski. I've gotten more of a, even early on, 'Yeah, I belong and I'm ready to compete and I'm ready to perform at a high level.' So, that's what I've seen. That's what his approach has been. That's why we felt so good about playing him in dime early on. There's no apprehension from my part at all on his ability to do that."
How does Antoine's absence impact those sub packages and dime? Is Jaquiski going to be playing deep and are you going to have to insert new guys into that dime spot?
"Well, we've mixed that up. So, you saw Eric Reid play down there some over the last few games. He was learning it, Antoine was learning it. What we're trying, not trying, but what we do is we want those guys to learn jobs. To learn the concept of the defense and then what do they do within the concept of the defense. And when you have safeties on the field at the same time, eventually what you'd like to get to is, 'OK, this play Eric you go down and play dime. This play, Jaquiski you go down and play dime.' So now, for the offensive line as they sit there and they've got to point out protections, they've got to account for linebacker-type bodies, but that body keeps changing. It's easier for us, because they know the jobs and it's harder for them. So, we built a flexibility with who can play in there. And then, we'll just hash it out here."
How much does Eric's job change depending on who the other safety is? I know former 49ers and current Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio talked about he wanted his safeties to be interchangeable, but it seems like Jimmie is much smaller than Jaquiski. Are those still interchangeable positions?
"The one thing about Jimmie is, and you'll see this with a lot of guys, there are guys that are small that play big and then there's guys that are big that play small. And to me, Jimmie isn't a small guy, but he plays bigger than his size. He's aggressive in run support. Very rarely do you see him take the brunt of contact. So, he plays with a good base. He's explosive. He has good leverage. Those things, when you're not the biggest guy on the field or the biggest guy at the position, it's really low man wins. How good is your base? How explosive are you? What kind of leverage do you have? He has all of those things that really help him with the position."
Jimmie and Jaquiski have been great friends since high school. Do you see that relationship as a benefit on the field? Have you seen that in practices?
"Yeah, I was asking him the other day if they hung out together and what they were like in high school and how could they ever lose any games in high school. You've got those two guys on the same team, that's pretty good. They have different personalities, but I would imagine it must be very comforting. I don't want to speak for Jaquiski, but it must be nice to come to a team where you know someone as well as he knows Jimmie and someone that can guide you through this first year. Because, this year it is so hard. It's so hard on so many levels for a young guy. As coaches, we often forget what a transition is like. I remember the transition, just coming here myself. There's so many things that you have to figure out before you even get to the football side and then you've got all the life components, all that other stuff. For young guys, new coaches, new system, big man on campus to not even close. There's no graduating class, you've got guys with kids. It's a whole different world. So, their relationship I think is, again I don't want to speak for him, but I would imagine it's nice to have a friend to help him navigate through that."
With St. Louis Rams RB Todd Gurley and his running style, does that lend itself to the possibility of more missed tackles or broken tackles?
"I hope not. What I like about Todd is patient, he's patient and he runs with a good pad level and he's thick through the hole, he's got a good stiff arm, all those things. You see some backs that they want to hit that first open area and then they're taking the brunt of contact. Todd does a nice job of being patient through the hole and then striking and then as he comes up on contact, being able to lower his shoulders and deliver a blow."
Does he have a little Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch in him or is Marshawn more violent?
"I've never been huge on comparisons. He's his own set of problems and they do a nice job too of using him. Or, he does a nice job of play action, selling the play action. The run, run, run, sell the run, as long as that fake is good by the back and the quarterback, it has a lot of draw on the secondary, a lot of draw on the linebackers, now they can go deep. And, again, talking about young guys, for a young guy he's doing it well."
He was viewed, for a guy coming off a knee injury, he was picked number 10 overall, etcetera. He was viewed as kind of perhaps a couple guy in a generational type talent. Obviously, he's three starts in, but from what you've seen is that potential there to be a great back?
"Based on his performance, he's done an outstanding job. Being that he is, those once in a generation, those unbelievable talents, and they're all potentially they could be, but you'd like to let it sort out over two or three years because there were some pretty amazing backs in the NFL over time, but I think he's outstanding."
Have you gone to the scouting department and looked at some of his pre-draft stuff to kind of gauge what you're going against?
"I remember him coming out and us talking about him. So, you've got that component and really you want to see him in this system because of how he fit in his college system could be very different than how he fits here. And, how does he relate to the blockers he has and what are they doing around him, what runs are specific to him. So, there's a little carryover there in terms of overall skill set, but it's how does that skill set now fit into this offensive scheme."
You said earlier Jaquiski was one of the last guys you evaluated as far as safeties. You said you might be being set up. Why was that?
"Because, he popped off the screen. You watch a bunch of the other guys and you're always looking at that draft picks where it's like the first few plays, 'Woah, that's pretty good.' And then, 10 plays into, pops again, 14 plays into it, pops again. He popped off the screen with both his range, when he got to the point of contact, what happened to the person that he met at the point of contact and those things were impressive. And, watching safeties over the years, you look for their ability to move through traffic and their ability to move through traffic without getting caught up in the noise. And it's very different. Guys who can feel where to go versus guys who have to kind of navigate and stop and start. He had a fluidness to him that I really liked."
So, what happened to the individuals that he met at the point contact?
"They got hit and they got hit hard and very rarely was he going backwards. You've seen some of it already, when he gets there, it's going to get noisy."
* Transcripts provided by the San Francisco 49ers