Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Mike McDaniel talks 49ers offense, Trey Lance, right guard competition, Elijah Mitchell, John Lynch

Aug 4, 2021 at 2:48 PM--

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel spoke with reporters after training camp practice today. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"I wanted to get out in front of this one. First and foremost, I'd like to say that any questions concerning [LS] Tabor Pepper, I defer to [special teams coordinator] Richard Hightower. All right, cool. I'm sorry. I apologize. So how are we doing good."

We see number five, QB Trey Lance, out there looking at really impressive. What is he like behind the scenes? Is he doing all the stuff that you want him to do?

"That's one of the best parts about Trey, is that he handles himself like he's wise beyond his years. So he really approaches every day like it's a new day and he's trying to get the most out of himself. It's been refreshing to see a young guy that you invest in, really attack it that way. And so that's, he's pretty consistent. He doesn't get too high or too low, which is what you'd want from a player at that position."

Can you sketch out what his day is? When does he come in? Who was he working with initially?

"His days are long. The exact time, I couldn't tell you in the morning, but he starts his day off with [quarterbacks coach] Rich Scangarello grinding it out before meetings. Then he has a position meeting part of which they extend because they utilize the special teams time. Then he goes through the entire day, like everyone else. Part of being a rookie, especially at that position, is that he can't, when walkthrough is done at like 7:00 PM, he can't just go home. He has to get in the meeting room with Rich, go over what we did in the walkthrough. And continue to get a head start on the next day stuff. Because again, at that position, you're in charge of every other player on the field at the same time with you. So there's a lot of play calls. We have a lot of wordy, wordy things that he has to really nail down so everyone else can execute their jobs."

You can see the completions of near completions. But in terms of the decision-making when he's running zone reads or doing checks at the line of scrimmage, even if he isn't allowed to do that yet, how was he from that perspective?

"Well, it's a work in progress, which is what you would, if you're doing anything that's really that difficult, you probably shouldn't be elite at it right from the jump. So that's one of the reasons why we have to rep it so much, rep all the plays so much, is because it isn't easy. So he's right where we'd want them in terms of he's in the developmental stage of all of it some plays are good, some plays are bad, but we try to focus on the bad, so there can be more good."

How much does Trey Lance work on is throwing mechanics? He seems so refined in that area for a guy who didn't throw much in college.

"Well, that was a big point of emphasis for him this off season. Those 40 days away specifically, where we had some things from a footwork standpoint that we were asking him to do that he hadn't really done. And that was the exciting part when we're talking about when he came back from his 40 days. He really put that time in, because we told them, 'Hey, listen, you're going to have to worry about all this other stuff.' In terms of defenses, formations, reads, all those things. So you don't have time to really work on it. So to answer your question, he really put in a lot of work in the summer. He came back, he knew what it should look like and what it should feel like. So, now when he has a mistake in that area, we can articulate it to him and be like, 'Hey,' and he knows exactly what we're talking about and can fix it and move forward."

How is he vocally? How is his command, presence?

"There's an element of confidence that is unique. I wouldn't say he's loud or boisterous. He has a calm confident swag that I think really appeals to players. He knows the pressure that's on him, like any other player. So he really is really comfortable in his own skin, I'd say. And he's getting to the point where he can correct other players, which from a coach's perspective is all you're looking for. You want a coach on the field. The person that a receiver is going to listen to, much more than a coach, is the guy that's throwing him the ball. So he's been very good with that and I think a lot of the guys respond to that.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh used to talk about eye positioning all the time. How are Trey's eyes in terms of looking off defenders? I know LB Jonas Griffith got him, I think, once. Kind of sunk back on a ball and picked him off. How are his eyes"

"That's a great question, because the NFL game, the transition from college to the NFL, it's magnified. It's a game of inches. So you do have to manipulate zoning defenders and there's plays that he's good with it, there's plays that he's bad with it. He's in the developmental stage. The good news is that he is able to do it and is wanting to do it and working to get better at it every day."

What went into the decision for OL Colton McKivitz to get reps for the first team? What are you seeing at the right guard position so far?

"Well, one of the best things that we have going on our entire offense is the depth and versatility of our offensive linemen. So we've been very mindful to really help facilitate the competition by rotating different guys in. And Colton McKivitz is a guy that has a lot of reps at guard from last year, but missing a training camp. So you always want to give guys opportunities. Today was his. We've been playing [OL] Tom Compton. We've been playing [OL] Dan Brunskill. We've been playing a lot of guys in there. At some point we'll put [OL Aaron] Banks in there and they'll all compete so that they have equal opportunity to earn that job.

How has Banks with the first two days of pads on?

"He's doing a good job really attacking the technique that we ask our linemen to do. A lot of the stuff that we ask them to do is a little different than they're used to. So he's attacking it. But with that, you'll jump off side sometimes. You'll be a little sloppy in your technique because you're not used to. He can't turn his brain off right now before he goes and plays. So that's something that we're not really concerned about at all. It's a natural progression that all players really go through."

Trey is only getting, with the exception of that one rep yesterday, only working with the second team. It seems like he's throwing to a lot of starters, whether it be TE George Kittle or WR Brandon Aiyuk. How important is that, or is that an emphasis for you guys and how important is it for him to build chemistry?

"I think that alludes to a question that you had before, but that's a very perceptive question. What we try to do as coaches, and what [head] coach [Kyle] Shanahan does with the entire offensive staff and what he asks me to do as well, is put a lot of pressure on position coaches to read through the script and see the different opportunities. We have the plays and we know the defenses. The players don't. So we try to put you know, 'Hey George Kittle needs a rep versus man coverage.' Well, instead of dictating the entire practice and all the peoples reps for George, we ask coaches to say, 'Hey, George, you're going to go in with the twos or the threes.' It doesn't really matter to get that opportunity. It's just one of the ways we try to work on individual skillsets."

RB Trey Sermon seems to be getting a lot of reps with the starters. What have you seen from him and how do you assess a running back without tackling?

"Well, that's a great question too, because there's not an easy answer. But I've been pumped with Trey because he's come a long way in a short period of time with us in terms of our techniques. We run around the corner a ton and realistically, a majority of all the stuff that he did in college was from the gun. So you're under center and when you're under center, you have to listen to a snap count. When you're in gun, you can kind of get away from looking at the ball snapped and not really going off the snap count. So those types of things, he's been growing and growing. And then the second part of the question?"

How do you assess running back in general without tackling?

"Yeah, that was the part of the question that was fired up about. It is hard. There's no short cut. You really have to magnify all the reps when you're not going to the ground. Where's his balance? Are his shoulders overs his toes, is the center of gravity right at the point of contact? And you can take that to a certain degree, but that's what's crazy about last year having no preseason, because for running backs, we really rely on those games to see how they, not necessarily their yards per carrier, or if their stats were good, but how are they on contact with defenders dragging on them? Are they going to get extra yards? Are they a guy that if it's blocked for three, he'll get five? So you can only take it so far. We do the best that we can. But then there's a lot of it that you have to wait until people can actually tackle you."

How does RB Elijah Mitchell with that? What are you seeing out of him besides that he's fast?

"That's one of my favorite parts of his game. So whether that was coincidental or not, when you watch him and you watch him at practice, you can see at the point of contact that he is striking defenders. We call it shoulder punched. You've seen [RB] Jeff Wilson [Jr.] do it a bunch. So in practice we see great vision and we see a guy that is not afraid of contact and should be pretty good after it. But, again we'll let him show us all that when the preseason games start"

With a preseason game a week and a half away, what's the biggest improvement you want to see from the offense before that first game?

"From the offense in its entirety, you'd like to have a little more flawless, fundamental football. Something we're always striving for. Part of our job as coaches is to find different ways that we can maximize the potential of players. There's a lot of guys that are getting better at individual things, but you want to see people work together as a group. You want to see people improve on the cadence and snap count. That's something you hear us talk about a lot because our defense is so good at defending against offenses. When they're probably the best D-Line that we see all year jumping, the cadence and stuff. So those types of things. You just really want guys to continue to progress and do it as a unit."

Can I ask you about the shirt? What was general manager John Lynch's reaction when he saw?

"This was a practice surprise. So I actually, there was a couple of guys that were really excited to put it on in the office before we went out. And I kind of was scurrying around offices, like hiding it so he didn't see it. The first thing I saw when I saw him, I asked him, 'Where's your shirt?' Because we thought it'd be kind of funny for him to wear his own name on his back. John is an unbelievable human being and there's not too many Hall of Famers that you even have the chance to know. I think all the players and coaches alike really feel that way. I think he felt just tremendous gratitude and a little bashful. He not a look at me guy and there's a lot of people wearing his name today."

When is the final day of install?

"Last night was, today was the final application of our install. So it was the seventh day. Now after their player day off, then we'll kind of tighten up and look at our players and continue to work on stuff that we're bad at.

At what point do you guys start to sit down and divvy up reps and how you want to evaluate?

"Well, we try not to get ahead of ourselves. Look, we're telling players that they have to go and attack every day. So it wouldn't be responsible for us if we're making decisions prematurely in advance of that. So really we're, that stuff comes a couple of days before the pre-season game. Not until then, because we don't want to short change all the competition from here until then."

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