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Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Robert Saleh discusses CB competition, 49ers D-line, replacing Buckner, Kocurek’s man crush on Kerry Hyder

Aug 18, 2020 at 2:59 PM--

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke with reporters after Tuesday's training camp practice. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

I've got a two-part cornerback question for you. We've seen a few guys rotate through there with the first string. Just wondering if that spot opposite CB Richard Sherman is up for grabs this summer? Two, just would like to hear what your thoughts are on CB Jason Verrett and how he looks this year perhaps compared to last year.

"The corner spot opposite Sherm, obviously we'd like to see a competition over there. It is wide open, if you want to call it that. We're just trying to give guys opportunities to go win that job. As far as it goes as Verrett is concerned, he's been looking good. He looks a lot more comfortable. He looks a lot more confident. It's just a matter of him getting back into the feel of it. It's been a while for him where he's been able to put together a full training camp. He's off to a good start."

A lot of people have talked about DL Javon Kinlaw and all the physical skills and the tools that he has, but what have your impressions been of him on the practice field in the early going?

"We're excited to have him. Like every rookie, it's just a different feel when you get on the practice field, especially when you go against an offense like ours who moves at such a fast pace, who make you run as a defensive line. It's not a power game that you've got to play, it's more of a speed game. For him, he's like every rookie. It's the fourth day of camp. Legs are probably getting a little bit heavier, but we're excited to have him. He showed a lot of explosive movements through individual drills in the first ten days and he is a very large human being, very powerful man. He just needs to continue to grind and lean on the veterans in that room and continue to get better every day."

Along with Javon, you've got DL Dee Ford who's healthy on the other side. What do you see differently from this defensive line this season?

"Where last year, you see the same confidence, the same effort, the same tenacity. [DL Nick] Bosa looks great, Dee Ford looks great. [DL Arik] Armstead, I know he's coming through, but he's looked good and we'll get him back here soon. [DL] D.J. [Jones] looks good. [DL Solomon Thomas] Solly looks good. The whole group, I'll be honest with you, you've got a bunch of men that are capable of being on a 53-man roster in this league. So, it's a deep group, a good group, a physical group and we're excited to have him."

Obviously, you lost some production in losing a guy like Indianapolis Colts DL DeForest Buckner. How helpful and important is it to have a healthy Dee Ford this year in terms of maybe replacing, I know they're not the same position, but replacing some of that production?

"For sure. Whether Buck was here or not, Dee Ford was a big, big part of what we did a year ago and having him for a full season is very important. Losing Buck is a big deal. We all love Buck and not just the football player, but all the things that he did off the field, as well as the leadership he provided. So, good for him with everything that's happened to him and his family and I'm very excited for him moving forward, but as a group collectively, no one person is going to replace Buckner's production. Everyone's just got to elevate their game a little bit more and find ways to produce in their own way, but as a unit, they can remain strong and continue to be dominant like they were a year ago."

One, I wanted to ask you about DL Kerry Hyder Jr., just your impressions of him. Then, just having that pass rushing depth, I know that defense took a little dip last year when Dee and obviously DL Ronald Blair III were both out. Do you feel like you've got enough there as far as candidates and maybe where does Hyder fit in that mix?

"So, Kerry, [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek's been talking about him forever. I would equate the man crush I have on Ronnie Blair to Kocurek's man crush with Kerry. Not to say that Kocurek doesn't love all his D-Linemen, but Kerry is a very reliable, not a grunt work, but he will get dirty. He'll get grimy. He can rush the passer. He can do a lot of different things. You can ask him to do a lot of different things. So, we're excited that Kerry's here and he's made a great first impression. Excited to get Ronnie back, too, to add to the depth of that defensive line, but in my opinion, you can never have enough pass rushers. You're right, the D-Line, it got a little beat up towards the end of the year and guys got a little bit tired up front by having to take extra reps. The depth part of it, getting [DL] Dion Jordan here is a plus, just when you're talking about the outside guys. So, just the overall group in general, we feel very excited about all the depth they have and all the different options that we have. So, the second group, and the whole philosophy of coming at them in waves, that second group is just as good as that first group. Well not just as good, but they're able to come in and keep the production high."

Two things. One is, what has Kocurek communicated to you about why Kerry Hyder is to him what Ronald Blair is to you? What does he like so much about him and let's move to the interior pass rush on nickel downs. How do you see that shaking out?

"With Kocurek's explanation of Kerry, it's really the same things that I'll describe to you about Ronnie. He's just a very reliable, you can call them a Swiss army knife, but they're still productive. Guys who are usually a jack-of-all-trades really aren't exceptional at anything, but when you look at a guy like Ronnie and Kerry Hyder, those guys have made a living playing their role and producing at a very high level. Kerry, when he's been with Kocurek, has produced at a very high level. You can see why a coach can get comfortable with a person like him, because they do things the right way. They work their tails off. They'll get dirty. They're smart. You can ask them to do a lot of things and they're not just there to fill a void, because they're going to go in and they're going to produce. So, you see a lot of similarities there. I've made the comment before that if you had 11 Ronnie Blair's, you'd be a really good defensive line. It's the same thing. I mean, Kerry Hyder, Ronnie, all the different pieces that we have on that defensive line, they all play a very specific role and they're all very productive and what they're asked to do."

With CB K'Waun Williams out right now at the nickel spot, and I saw CB Jamar Taylor there today. What does his experience bring, because I know that he's been in the league for a while and has seen several of these schemes? I think including this one.

"Glad Jamar is here. Losing [Seattle Seahawks DB] D.J. Reed hurt just because of all his flexibility and versatility that he's had for us. But, Jamar, he made a play today in practice that, he's seen it from our offense a few times and he played the play. Wasn't his play to make, but he still made the play just because he's seen it so much. With those veterans, them having experience understanding football, you're not teaching them the basics of football. You're trying to get them to a level 301 or 401 of teaching. He's very smart. He's been reliable. He works his tail off and he's off to a pretty good start, also."

Nick Bosa mentioned recently that his workout regimen led to his body maybe not looking so much like a bodybuilder. He seems a little bit leaner now. Have you noticed that and could you explain why he might've gone about changing his body that way?

"I'll be honest, he looks a little leaner, but I think he's also a lot stronger. I attribute it just to the maturation of a human being. He's out of college. He's had his first offseason and he's just completely with a professional workout crew, if you will. Him and his brother, grinding out in Florida and doing whatever they had to do to get ready. You can tell that those two, the Bosa brothers, have a very strict eating regimen, workout regimen, and they take very, very good care of themselves and just see it. The guy showed up in unbelievable shape. He looks fantastic. He's moving very well and he's been able to maintain the thing that people don't recognize and that's his power."

This is kind of a big picture question, but we haven't talked to you since the draft and you guys spent obviously another first rounder on a defensive lineman. I know teams have different beliefs in how they build things out, whether they invest in secondary or upfront. Why is it so important for you guys to put so much emphasis on the pass rush and how has that maybe evolved in the years you guys have been together since you've been here?

"[Head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [general manager] John [Lynch], they've always had that philosophy. I've always had that philosophy. Obviously, with the way I was raised. You look at Kyle and going through the offensive side of the ball and recognizing what gives him problems and it's always a very disruptive front. You look at John Lynch, who had been a safety in this league and recognizing that when he was in coverage, it was a lot easier to cover when the quarterback held the ball for less than three seconds versus when he was back there baking a pizza. When you look at an offensive system, the quarterback is the best football player on the team and the only group that single handedly can affect that quarterback is a really good pass rush. Unless you decide to manufacturer pressure on the quarterback, but then you've got to have a tremendous backend. That's where it goes back and forth. When you can rush four and manufacturer great coverage in the back end, and that quarterback is disrupted by the four men in front, you can create a very sound defense that eliminates explosives and makes teams earn every single yard. You can play a very consistent style of football with them. We always say rush and coverage go hand in hand and here it does for sure."

DB Tarvarius Moore has looked really good so far, but in the pecking order in a traditional safety, he's probably behind DB Jimmie Ward. Do you anticipate you might use more dime looks as you did a little bit in the Super Bowl and use Tarvarius that way?

"It's possible. Tarvarius is a very versatile asset to the group. Trying to find ways to get him on the football field are very important to us. He's got tremendous speed. He's got great awareness. He's smart. He knows what to do. There's always that possibility to continue using him, especially with all these offenses that are going with ten personnel, or they've got these backs that are very shifty out of the backfield where they're pretty much like slot receivers. So, there's obviously a role for him, even though he might be behind Jimmie. He still has a role with this football team."

I felt LB Fred Warner's hit today was the first really big pop that we've seen of training camp. What's that like after such a weird and long offseason to finally get a good proper hit? Obviously, everybody was okay, but what was your reaction to that and did it bring back a little sense of normalcy for you?

"I'm going to be very, very honest. Kyle and myself, all of us were very, very, stern with protecting one another and taking care of the team. So, my first reaction when he hits his teammate is, 'Ah, is the offensive player all right?' You don't want to see it in practice. I wish we had preseason games so we can get it in there. But honestly, my reaction goes right to the offense. It's just whether or not the person he hit is all right. I'm not much fun on that one. I'm not going to lie to you."

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