Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Transcripts: What Mike McDaniel and DeMeco Ryans said ahead of 49ers-Colts

Oct 21, 2021 at 4:45 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Indianapolis Colts this weekend. Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans spoke with reporters after today's practice. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel

Are you ready for Sunday night?

"I wish it was right now. I can tell you this much, our entire team is ready to play football again. We've had about a month of sour taste in our mouth, so we're all pretty eager to get on the field and play our way through this. And I desperately wish you guys would have told me it's Sunday afternoon right now, because it seems like a long time, but it'll be here shortly."

In terms of third down, we always hear that it's hard for a rookie to learn to become a good player on third downs. What is it exactly that makes that role so hard for rookies to attain?

"Well, it's the hardest part of football because the simplest way I can put it is, there's less stress on the defense because you're pretty much exclusive, barring a run here or there, you are pass exclusive. They know what you're about to do, so that they can put all their eggs in one basket in one way, shape or form. It happens fast. There's a lot of more moving parts. There's tighter coverage and the timing of things can change. It's more exotic. But all of that being said, what it really boils down to is that you're in a pass exclusive situation. So, things are more aggressive and the room for error is less and less. The out of the huddle, the defensive line, linebackers and whoever's blitzing, is trying to sack the quarterback. That's not always the case on first and second down, because when you're trying to sack the quarterback, you might leave yourself vulnerable for a run or a play action or whatever."

Are your rookies close? Do you like the progress that they're making as far as that role?

"Definitely. All of our rookies that are playing offensively right now are much better than when we started and that's when you're very happy about young players. You'd always love to not play rookies immediately because of the learning curve especially in today's game, there is a drastic difference between college and the NFL. But when they do play, you don't want them to, like I've said before, repeat mistakes. Whether it's a running back, quarterback, whomever, guys are getting better every time they play and that's a good thing for the 49ers."

You and head coach Kyle Shanahan, since you've been together, have generally had success running the ball, like by committee. Maybe Former NFL QB Robert Griffin III and Former NFL RB Alfred Morris or New York Jets RB Tevin Coleman and Baltimore Ravens RB Devonte Freeman or whatever. But I think because of injuries, it hasn't really worked out where you can have a committee approach, but do you have to figure out like if RB Trey Sermon can share the load with RB Elijah Mitchell in order to have an effective run game for the rest of the season?

"Yeah, we have to have really good play from our entire offense, including our running backs to run the ball well and improve the rest of the season. You don't have to have a running back by committee necessarily. We've done it every way, shape or form. It's really with coach Shanahan and [running backs coach Robert] Bobby Turner [Jr.] that they love when someone puts them in a situation where like, 'hey, we can't take this guy out.' That's happened. Plenty of times, what were [RB] Raheem Mostert's attempts a couple of years ago in the divisional playoff game, he might've had a handful of carries. And then, once you make plays on the field, we're not stubborn. We're not going to take you off of it. So to answer your question, you don't have to but this game is hard. It's very physical and it is a positive for the offense, for the guy carrying the ball, to be as fresh as possible. So it always helps to have a running back by committee in general, but we're not really looking at it that way. We're looking at it to rotate guys. And then when you see stuff that you're like, 'hey, wow, that was a good run.' Coach Turner has an unbelievable feel for that. He's been doing it for a long time, and he's not going to take that guy out if he's got a hot hand. So that's why it can kind of vary from week to week because you're seeing things. Most of the time it's not because one person isn't doing well. It's because, 'Hey, we want to give this guy the ball more."

I've asked about Trey Sermon this season, but he only had the one carrier against the Cardinals. Whereas Trey was a big part of that game plan running. Again, the same question you've been asked, but kind of where is he in his development?

"He hasn't taken a step back since we've been talking about it at the beginning of the season when RB Elijah Mitchell got reps over him. He hasn't taken one step back. He's only gotten better. That was not by design going into that game. It was more, you have anxiety with a running back in particular when you're going on gameday and a guy hasn't been hit for a couple of weeks. They're responsible for the ball for the entire offense and the team. So if they fumble it, so we didn't really know you, you feel good about Elijah in practice, but you don't know until you know. And once he got on the field and his opportunities, there's things from a coaching staff perspective, like, 'wow, that was good. Oh, okay. He's feeling it. Okay.' Then all of a sudden, we have a couple packages where [FB] Kyle Juszczyk is the running back, so that takes reps off. So it wasn't by design. It wasn't any sort of regression. It was more because when we got into the game with their different defensive looks, there was some small holes that Elijah made a little bit bigger. And so, we just kept giving him opportunities. And that's the way we've kind of always operated. I always want to give guys opps, but hey, don't kill a hot hand."

How did OL Jaylon Moore do when he got that little extended look against Seattle a couple weeks ago? And what would you say is his kind of state of readiness if he has to play?

"Oh, he's ready to play NFL football. And what's great about Jaylon is the human being is built to be a very good player in the NFL for a long time. What I mean by that is that the game is not too big for him. And he learns from things that happen. He was very productive. The reason why that is because anytime with offensive lineman, if you're not talking about them, it's probably a good thing. So, he's very exciting to a lot of guys, including the rest of his position group, all the players, [T] Trent Williams, and all the guys. They really love the guy because they know he has what it takes to be a pro in this league and he keeps getting better. We didn't have to do anything from a schematic standpoint that game, which is a huge plus as a rookie playing tackle. So, everyone's very confident with him on the field in however many snaps he gets week in and week out."

When it comes to this week's gameplan, without getting too into detail, but with Indianapolis Colts DL DeForest Buckner and Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard up the middle there, how important is it for you guys to be able to run around the edge?

"Yeah, it's important for guys to block those two players in particular and be between them and the ball because they're two of the best players at their respective positions in the league. Tremendous respect for both players, both players can really ruin your game. And they're both people that you have to know where they're at and your players have to kind of make plays when they're in their vicinity because they're going to find a way around the ball somehow, some way. So you need to make sure your guys got their mind right for that, knowing that they will meet them, we'll do our best to make sure they're blocked, but when they aren't blocked make sure you protect the ball and do your best to strain because they are the real deal."

You can't run away from them easily?

"No, that's not really how they're, that'd be awesome. I think that would be a tough game plan to kind of produce because they have different calls and they aligned differently, but also they're in the middle of the defense, so the Indianapolis Colts know they have good players, so they make sure that they can get around the ball and you have to take your good players and block them to the best of your ability."

With Buckner after all the years of playing and practicing against him, does that help you at all in your gameplanning?

"It helps me have anxiety. No, I'm sure that is the case. Familiarity is always comforting and Buck is a great, great teammate. A guy we all love and his game has continued to progress. So I'm not sure anything totally prepares you, they're in a different system that emphasizes a couple of different things than we do. But really honestly, you're just like, 'hey, we know firsthand how he can wreck a drive or a scoring opportunity or whatever.' So you do not take him lightly because of that."

The injuries that they have on the secondary, you've already got your game plan set now. As it progresses throughout the week, they've got a lot of injuries there. Does it change at all? Do you adjust? Do take that into consideration?

"You're always thinking about matchups, but at the same time, just like us, the Colts have depth on their defense. They get paid too. Their personnel department does a great job. So although a backup might be in, the vast difference between the backup and the guy in front of them, isn't grave enough to all of a sudden tweak your whole gameplan. They do a good job to play team defense, much in the way that we try to do here with the 49ers. So a single injury doesn't affect them as much as a lot of teams, because they are a team that plays with effort, that swarms to the ball and tries to collectively handle things. There's a lot of guys that have a lot of tackles. And when you watch them play, you see a lot of guys swarming around the ball. So, defense is like that. It's more difficult to all of a sudden pinpoint a different direction in your gameplan because of one injury."

He's on the Colts injury list this week, but it seemed like during the 2019 Senior Bowl, that Indianapolis Colts CB Rock Ya-Sin played really well and he had some good matchups against [WR] Deebo [Samuel] that week. I'm just wondering if you looked back to that draft that year, whether those encounters that he had with Ya-Sin kind of factored into your evaluation of him? Seeing him going up against a talented cornerback?

"A little. What's funny about that is I'm pretty sure both guys in their memory think that they got the best of one another that week. They both have confidence and they like to talk and they're competitors. But, realistically you're looking at a guy that's learning a playbook for a couple of weeks live. You know what he looks like and how he feels, but to be more comfortable with who that player is a couple of years later, it doesn't apply that much. We just know they're going to be talking to each other and probably settling some grudges from one-on-ones in Mobile."

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

How do you feel about your run defense going up against Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor and the strides they've made the last couple of games before the Bye Week?

"Yeah, I think Indy has a really, really good run offense. The back is really good. The O-Line has done a good job for them. Could tell a very explosive player if you're not where you need to be and in the right fit, this guy can take it to the house in a heartbeat. So, we have to be very disciplined in our run defense. Everybody has to be disciplined, in the proper gaps. Everybody has to swarm and tackle because this guy, he's very tough to get down, really good player, respect him. Him and #21 [Indianapolis Colts RB Nyheim Hines], both of those guys are very good players. So we have our work cut out for us this week when it comes to the run game, but we're up for the challenge for sure."

How would you describe CB Josh Norman's personality?

"I think Josh, his personality, he's a quiet guy. He doesn't say much, but he's a true pro that's the one thing I like about Josh. I just love veterans who can come in and can take young guys under their wing that means a lot to me. That's how I was brought up in the league and that's kind of how the league just progresses. You kind of learn from the vets and it's the vet's duty to teach the younger guys. And that's how guys did it for me coming in. And that's what I still see going on, which is cool to see even to this day is our veteran guys coming in, no matter when they get here, like taking that leadership role. And Josh has done a great job at that, but he's a quiet guy, he speaks when he needs to speak, he's intense out on the field, plays with a high level of energy. So I liked Josh, really happy we were able to get him and get a veteran who's done it for a while in this league at a high level. So happy we were able to get him when we did."

You guys have talked a lot about, obviously trying to get more takeaways. I know you've had a lot of fumbles that have come out, maybe you just haven't been able to fall on them. When you went back and looked over the Bye Week how close are you to maybe getting more and the tide turning on that?

"Yeah, the turnovers are definitely an issue. We have to get more turnovers. We have to take it away to give our offense the ball. And that's our goal every time we go out, but just looking at it, we're attacking the ball. You watch [LB] Fred [Warner], you watch Josh, [CB] Dontae [Johnson] the last time out versus Arizona, like guys are attacking the ball. The ball is coming out. Just hasn't fell our way yet, but we're going to keep plugging away. We're going to keep attacking the ball. We're going to keep as much as we can, guys just keep talking about it, keep putting emphasis on it. That's not going to change every week, every day. Our emphasis is on the ball, it just has to happen. And I feel like, it just takes one game when it turns your way. It just takes one game and we need that very soon for our guys. But guys have been working hard at it in practice, emphasizing it in practice, getting it done in practice, getting the ball out in practice. Now we just need to keep doing what they've been doing with the mindset of the ball and then it'll come our way soon."

Do you see a potential rain game as a way of kind of starting that turning the tide on that, so to speak?

"Whatever it takes. If it takes the rain for us to get the ball, whatever it takes. I'll be fired up, but everybody's been talking about the rain and everything. It's one of those things that if it happens, it happens, but of course the ball becomes a more of an issue in the rain when it comes to handling it from the offensive perspective. Ball carriers are more conscious and the ball does get loose more in the rain. So, rain or no rain, we've got to get it out. But the rain may help us a little bit."

Fred Warner, when he started here, a lot was put on his plate and then the next season things were kind of taken off of his plate so he could play faster. He kind of thrive in that, I think more things are his responsibility now. Where do you see his role? How would you define it in comparison to the previous seasons?

"Yeah I think Fred's role, it really hasn't changed. It hasn't changed much. He still has the same amount of responsibility that he's always had when it comes to just being that quarterback of the defense. Just getting the calls, getting our guys set and lined up. That hasn't changed and Fred's one thing that's been great about Fred is he's a great communicator. And he does a really great job of communicating, but he can get that done, the communication part of it and he can go play at a high level. So, I don't see anything where it's changed for him. He's able to handle it and he's able to do it at a high level. And he's been doing a really good job of it."

You're facing Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz who may not be the stature of Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rogers or Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson or Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray this year. But he did a good number on this team in Week Four last year, so have you gone back and looked at film like that and just kind of reminded the guys not to underestimate him?

"Yeah. We never underestimate anyone and definitely not Carson. This guy's a big-time playmaker. He can make all the throws on the field and he's very, very elusive in the pocket. It's very hard to get him down. He has an uncanny ability to kind of stay alive, keep plays alive and still fire it downfield. So yeah, we have our work cut out for us with Carson, we're not underestimating him at all. I really respect his game, respect what he's been through in this league and bounced back and being able to go there to Indy and really continue to perform at a high level. But he's definitely a playmaker in his league that we are conscious of."

DL Samson Ebukam is not on the injury report this week. Does he look more explosive? Does he look different than he did when he was sort of struggling with that hamstring early on?

"Yeah, Samson has looked fine in practice. I think the explosion and everything is back. I think he's feeling the Bye Week. It did him well. So, I think he looked explosive to me in practice and he'll be fine to go."

What does do right longer mean to you?

"Yeah do right longer, it just means doing your job, whether it's the first play or it's the second quarter, it's the third quarter, fourth quarter, game is on the line. Like you don't change. Do right longer means to me, it's just being consistent from the start of the game to the finish line. It's no ups and downs. It's just being even keeled, doing your job, doing it at a high level every play that you're out there. And whether that's 60 plays, like can you do right for those 60 plays? And it's more of a mindset and a mental strain of guys being able to lock in for the entire game. Do it right, even when it's boring, doing it right. Even when you do it great, come back and do it again. Like you're going to have to consistently just do your job in this league and that's the thing that doesn't change. No matter where you are, offense, defense, special teams, it's about owning the fundamentals and techniques of your job consistently, down in and down out. And the team that can do that the longest, those are the teams who prevail and win on Sundays. The teams that do right longer, just doing your job, being consistent."

You're very familiar with the DeForest Buckner, of course. When you're watching film of the Colts, you're probably watching offense, but have you kind of peeked at what he's been doing this year? And since he's been with the Colts?

"Yeah, I've seen Buck, he's still a big-time playmaker. He's still wrecking offenses, I miss Buck. Buck was an instrumental part to this organization. He was a leader, first and foremost, leader on and off the field. The guys gravitated to Buckner. You miss him. He's such a great guy and he's a great player as well. Buckner, he's still a big-time playmaker, making plays, getting the ball out for the Colts. And I know they really appreciate him and we appreciate him and we still love Buck, wish we had him. But Buck is doing great and he'll do great for a long time, really great player. But the thing that stuck out to me about Buck is just his dedication. When it's the offseason, he was the guy that's here working. In season, he's always working, always bringing other guys along with him. So, I definitely miss him."

How does DL Nick Bosa prepare each week? Like in terms of film room or meetings, we can see what he does on the field, obviously he's in shape. What does he do to prepare?

"Yeah. When it comes to Nick and all those guys in the room, Nick, getting in there with [defensive line] coach [Kris] [Kocurek]. Kocurek does a great job with those guys breaking down our opposing offensive lineman and really doing a great study of who they're going against. So, he gets in with Kocurek and does a really good job of studying a tackle that he's going against and understanding how they're going to try to block him and just detailing it out to a point that when he lines up on a Sunday, he knows exactly how a guy's going to block him and he knows what moves he can make. And the thing about Bosa is if something changes, he's such an instinctive player, if it's not that way, he's very quick to change and react to whatever he's given. So, he's a very gifted athlete, first and foremost, but he's also a very smart athlete as well, a smart pass rusher."

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