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What DeMeco Ryans and Mike McDaniel said ahead of 49ers-Bears

Oct 28, 2021 at 4:29 PM--

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

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

Let's start with the defensive backs and what do you want to see out of them at practice this week? And maybe update us on where DB Deommodore Lenior and CB Ambry Thomas are in their development.

"Yeah, I think for our DBs, everybody has seen and heard about the defensive pass interferences and that definitely has hurt us. We gave up over close to 100 yards in penalties and we can't do that. We can't beat ourselves from that standpoint. We have to play smarter, we have to play better. So, we've been working with those guys all week, just putting them in those positions as often as we can. Putting them in positions, so they're confident and they're comfortable to go out and make a play in the game. And [defensive passing game specialist/secondary coach] Cory [Undlin] has done a great job of working with those guys all week and we expect them to be better as we go out on Sunday."

What are the coaching points there because other coaches have said, if defensive backs look back for the ball, there's a chance they lose their man in coverage? So in terms of finding that balance between looking for the ball and trying to disrupt the catch point, I guess what's the balance?

"Right. Yeah. It's always about just, with the DBs, being in a proper position to start. I think most times guys panic when they're not in position, we call it in phase or out of phase. When you're in phase with the wide receiver or tight end running a route and if you're in phase and you're comfortable, you can look up for the ball. If you're out of phase, sometimes guys panic and just reach out for the guy but still understand you have time to catch up and just play through the hands, play hands to hands, when you're not in position when that guy's in front of you and you're behind him, you just have to play through the hands and finished at the catch point."

Do you feel like because you guys were struggling to create turnovers that some guys were pressing a little bit too much to try and create them?

"No, I don't feel that way. I think we had our opportunities on Sunday to create turnovers. We were able to get two, had opportunities for a few more. If a ball hit us in the hand, we have to catch it. So, we had our opportunities for at least at least four turnovers there. We just have to capitalize when the ball is thrown to us, we have to make them pay."

Deommodore Lenoir had a lot of playing time early in the season and he was inactive last week. Is there anything that's going with him or is it just you thought that was the better situation?

"Yeah, he still has room to grow. Still has room to develop and learn and keep pushing. I think Lenoir, he did some good stuff for us early. He still has to continue to maintain that sense of urgency to go out and compete and be his best every week. And he's still pushing through, still battling. So, I expect him, I expect Ambry to continue to fight, compete, to battle to be better, work on their techniques and everything they need to do throughout the week, so they can have the opportunity to be up and available for the game."

When you guys drafted Ambry, was the expectation that he might not play a whole lot this year given that he didn't play last year? Was this sort of expected by you guys?

"No expectations either way. When you draft guys, you don't know for certain either way. So everything is about that developmental process for all of these guys, whether they played or didn't play, it's all about how much can they grasp and how quickly can guys catch on. Some guys, it doesn't matter where you're picked, some guys catch on earlier than others. So it's just a matter of, for me, it's always about just developing guys and bringing them on at their speed. You'd like it to be as quickly as they can so they can get out there and help us."

Obviously just one practice with him back, how did DL Jordan Willis look today? Is it realistic to think he could contribute for you guys as soon as this week?

"Yeah. I'm very pleased where Jordan is. Jordan looked really well. He's been working out here, he's been in meetings. So Jordan, he's looked like he hasn't missed a beat. So I'm very excited to where he is and the shape that he came back in. It's just a testament to him. He's really been working hard while he's been away. You can tell it means a lot to him and Jordan loves football. It means a lot to him and he showed up that way and he's out to prove a point."

With three guys missing today, DL Nick Bosa, is that a maintenance day?

"[Head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] will handle all that stuff with why these guys miss."

How has S Talanoa Hufanga's development been? Is he ready to take the next step?

"Yeah, Huf has done a great job and I'm trying to get him more opportunities to get out on the field. I think he really takes advantage of the times that he has ops and he's out there on the field. You see, just like he was in college, he can create some plays for us. And I'm excited to where he is and trying to get him out on the field, even more. I think he can be a spark for us the way he competes, the way he works, smart player. I just love his intensity on and off the field, in the classroom. He does a really good job. He does things the right way, so I'm excited to see how he progresses."

I feel like as a rookie, he's got an incredible amount of energy. Kind of also a confidence about him as well. Do you see that as a difference between maybe some other rookies you've seen?

"Yeah, that's everything with rookies, it's not about-- sometimes rookies come in and they kind of overthink it, over process and it slows them down. And I can see that with Huf, he's confident and he knows he can go make a play. He expects to go and change the game and that sets guys apart. Football, it's all about the mentality. If you have the mentality, you believe in yourself that you can go out and compete against anybody, you can make a play, you'll make plays."

How have you seen DL Kentavius Street grow now that he's had a chance to actually play in a series of games here, strung them together a little bit?

"Yeah. Street has come along well. It was up and down for him to start off his career with all of the setbacks and injuries. But I think Street is coming along well. He's progressing well. He's getting a valuable playing time in there with the guys that we've been missing. So he's getting valuable time, valuable reps and he continues to get better each week. Is still grinding to get better every week. So, I think Street is in a good place with his development so far."

Is there another level that comes with just being able to actually finally play multiple games in a row and just get comfortable?

"Yeah. There is another level, it's part of just playing, but then it's going and not just playing, but being a factor and being a playmaker when you're out there. It's not enough just to be out there. We need guys, all of our guys, to step up and be difference makers for us at every position."

Kyle talked to about Nick Bosa yesterday being so much better than he has been in the past, present-wise than his rookie year. Have you seen that from him? What do you see that's been different since he's started here?

"Yeah. Bosa, he's come a long way. I think just as far as playing the game much smarter, understanding his opponent and going against and understanding what offensive tackles, what offenses, are trying to do, how they're trying to attack him. I think early on just playing off of pure instincts, which is good enough when you're as good as Bosa, but just taking that game another level. Playing smarter, understanding the looks, being able to move around in different positions along the D-line. I think he's advancing as this goes into his third year, he's advancing and I think the sky is the limit for Bosa. You don't have many players that come around with the type of talent level that he has. The sky is the limit for him. I expect really big things out of him."

Have you noticed him get tangibly better week-to-week the further he gets from last season's injury?

"Yeah, and that's the thing he came off of an ACL, a really bad injury and I'm just impressed the way he came back in, no preseason games or anything. But he came in that first game and played way more reps than anybody expected that he would play and he didn't miss a beat. But then you know there's more, he's continued to progressively get better and better and better. And you think about the injury and think about where he is now it's really amazing to see the progress that he's made. That guy, he's a true warrior. One of the hardest working guys that we have, and he's dedicated to making sure we're a successful team."

Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel

How's business?

"Well, today was good. I'm living in the now, like the rest of our team. You can't worry about what's been going on. You worry about what you can control. So today was a good day. Yesterday was a good day. I'm trying to black out everything else."

How do you feel about Sunday night?

"That was a heartbreaker. Well, because it's part of the whole process. It speaks to, the 49ers organization, what [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and [general manager] John [Lynch] have built here. But there was no question, I think, in anybody's mind that we were going to find a way to win that game. When you make yourself that vulnerable to not think of anything but victory and you lose, it hurts. And it's been hurting for about the last month. But then the best way to handle that emotion is to try to fix it. You fix it by changing it and the only way to change it is to win a football game. So, you press forward through that as best you can on Monday and Tuesday, and once the players are back in on Wednesday, you have no time to worry about anything else other than playing the Chicago Bears and trying to find a way to win."

When do you guys really work on your third down offense? During the last few games you had difficulty, is there a main day that's the emphasis, is Thursday, is today that day?

"It's a very important down because it relates to first and second down. It earns you more opportunities on first and second down. So, we start that the second we start watching game tape. So the second we put the final opponent to bed, as a staff, we're all studying game tape of the previous opponent and the first and second down plan comes together first, but we're studying all of that and putting down ideas and thoughts and then tightening it up after your first and second down prep is done. But that starts on Monday, probably for me about 10:30 a.m. And yeah, it's like everything else, when you do something poorly, you try to fix it. Being one-of-one for, I guess you'd call it, on third down that doesn't go away. You're thinking about it in bed, you're thinking about it all the time. So you try to get on top of that as fast as possible, but it's like everything else in football, when you're not doing something well, you try to fix it as fast as you can."

With that, Kyle has talked about the lack of execution has been such a big problem, and it seems like it hasn't been this way over the last few years. Have you been able to — has it been head-scratching at all just not executing plays that have sort of been your bread and butter?

"No, here's the thing, you can look at individual games where we've been over 60% on third downs. You can look at stretches where we've been pretty productive. One thing you learn in this business, over time, is that nothing's an absolute and you are what your next game is. We've had games in the past that we've won. I'm sure you guys could dial it up on your apples right now, games that we've won where we've had 20% conversion rate and those particular games you're extremely explosive on first and second down and try to stay out of third down. But for us, for the most part, you're not saying, 'okay, we are a bad third down team.' We're playing bad on third down last game, the game before we didn't do as well as we wanted to. How are we going to be this week? And it'd be a lot easier if it was one thing. That would be a coach's dream because you'd just fix that thing. But when you have multiple variables that are contributing to the overall outcome, you really have to assess one by one. Okay, how do we do this? Are we doing this too much? Are we doing too little of this? Are these guys prepared for what they're seeing? All of it. They get paid too. Defenses have a plan and there's so many variables. We practiced with wet footballs last week, clearly not enough. You're thinking through all of those things, but they're compounding variables, so you just try to do what you can control and see if the outcome can improve moving forward."

Could you explain what a starting quarterback might lose during the week of practice if he's not given a hundred percent of the first team reps?

"Well it depends on the individual and how diligent they are, how good of a non-practice player they are. There are some people that can absorb reps, they can take themselves through it and they can visualize it in the back during practice and can feel the timing. And there's some people that can't as much, it's very important, but it affects individual players differently because every player is different. I've seen players be pretty hot when they haven't practiced and I've seen players really struggle when they haven't practiced. So I wouldn't chase an absolute without one either, but there's a reason they say practice makes perfect. It's an important part of the process that to a degree, it's something you can't supplement in terms of how if you don't get it, you don't get really get it back."

Can you describe the dynamic with QB Jimmy Garoppolo and QB Trey Lance during the week? Like what goes into making the decision in terms of-- Kyle has been pretty clear, like Trey is the backup quarterback. He's not going to get too many first team reps aside from maybe a handful of plays that you guys work in. But just go into the decision of, okay, we're not going to give Trey first team reps just yet, maybe down the road, but just how you find that balance?

"You're trying to anticipate how much you're going use somebody in a given game, how they're going to play and then it's like every other problem-solving thing we have to do as coaches. One problem-solving tool we've used is, okay, you look at the opponent's offense and during scout team, when you're servicing the defense, the quarterback coach and the offensive coaches have to put the time in to look through those types of plays and be able to apply it to our offense so that you can steal reps in your offense doing someone else's offense. The terminology, the reads, the progressions. We don't know the opponent's playbook, but we know what the plays are. And then we can take the extra time to make sure that, 'hey, it's written down on the card. Okay, this is X, Y or Z for our offense.' So there's a countless number of things, staying after practice, having some of the receivers that are fresher stay out there or tight ends and running backs and executing plays and timing that way. You don't just say it is what it is, he can't get reps. No, that's not part of our process. Our job is to get people better, so when there's only a finite amount of reps and our starting quarterback is getting a high percentage of those or all of those or all of those, then we have to find work arounds and that's what we're trying to do as best we can."

In 2017, when Garoppolo was like the savior, was like a phenomenon, and maybe not quite Hall of Fame QBs Steve Young and Joe Montana levels of love, but right up there. And now, so many fans are like, can we just get him away, we want Trey Lance. So just the, obviously, opposite ends of the spectrum as far as how he's being embraced or not. How has he handled both those highs and lows?

"He does a very good job handling that stuff because he understands, like we all do and coach Shanahan makes make sure we do, that this is a bottom line business. And this just in, the fans of the 49ers want the 49ers to win. And so when we don't, they want something to change. And so, he doesn't take it personal. You have to take praise in the same regard as criticism. You're know that you're going to get praised if things are going really well. The cooler part is when things aren't going well, you're able to put that in perspective and not let that distract you from what you're trying to do. We have to play another game and he's trying to play to the best of his ability. So thinking about anything else, I think he understands that as a matter of fact, I know he understands that, guess what, if we lose football games, we're going to get more criticism. That's what we get paid to do and you don't take it personal. If we don't win football games, there's going to be consequences. There always are in that regard. And I think he's done an outstanding job not worrying about any of that this week, specifically, and worrying about how to execute this game plan for the Chicago Bears."

You talked about how much better of a command he had over the offense when he came into training camp. Is there anything that's changed or what not since then? Or is it just not translating to games as well?

"No, he was doing real well and then he got hurt and then he played one game. You have to keep that in perspective. We had a Bye Week and there was time, but people have to remember that we just played a really, really, rainy, wet game. That's hard for quarterbacks and it's no excuse at all because the other quarterback was playing in the same rainy game, but in terms of his trajectory he was playing at a very high level. He got hurt. He came back and then we didn't play nearly as well as we wanted to, that has something to do with him. But, when we look at, as coaches, it has a lot to do with a lot of other people as well. Coaches included. I don't really see a trajectory from what we were speaking of, he does own the offense. And he does understand what we're trying to get done and it's night and day from when we first got him and much better than the year before. The last game right before he got hurt, it wasn't to the standard that he started with, but that doesn't mean anything but that, 'hey, I didn't play good.' That happens at all positions for every player. I'm pretty sure any sport. Tiger Woods has missed the cut. Michael Jordan has gone 0-for. At every position, when you handle the ball every single time, you're going to have games that aren't your best. His job is to make sure that that game is the apparition. That game is the exception. It's not the rule, which this week in practice it's felt like that was the case."

How important is it for receivers to sort of make every route look the same, at least to defensive backs, so they don't know what's coming. Is that something that WR Brandon Aiyuk has had to work on this year?

"It's very important that is like the skill of receiver play one-on-one. First and foremost, your advantage as an offensive player, when you're running a route, is the defender doesn't know what you're doing. That's bottom line. But I guess it starts with the snap count. They don't know what the snap count is, but if someone's trying to guard you, if you can make everything look the same, it's a lot more difficult to guard someone. That's our advantage. And that is something definitely that some of what we've been talking about in terms of needing him to develop. Yeah, that's part of it. To get him to understand, to look through the lens of a defender with every route and what tools that receivers that are successful have. One of the foundational, fundamental things of that is making all routes look the same. Starting with the go route and then moving on from there."


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