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-Seahawks

Dec 2, 2021 at 5:10 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. 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

I asked QB Jimmy Garoppolo about this yesterday, but he said it'd be a better question for the coaches. I looked at the offensive efficiency splits, first and third down, you guys are at or near the top of the league. Second down, like 23, 24. Is that something that you guys are aware of and is that something, do you have any theories as to why second down has been less efficient?

"Correlation or causation? I don't know. No, I think that's more happenstance than anything. You pretty much treat first and second down the same in terms of there's still an equal run-pass threat and that's how we kind of look at the game. So I wouldn't say we're bad second down coaches. I feel like over time that would work itself out, but yeah that's not something that I was really aware of. Just because really we look at the game, first and second down, you're either avoiding third down or you're not."

You guys did a lot of those toss plays to RB Elijah Mitchell to the right side and they were effective. Is that something that's pre-calculated, whether you're going to do your runs right or left, or is that based on what you're seeing at the moment?

"We, especially our staff, we have a collection of coaches that might err on the side of over-thought. So literally every direction, ball handling, receiver alignment, there's a reason for everything. That doesn't mean it works out, or it works in our favor or it doesn't come to bite us. But all of those things we take into consideration. A lot of it has to do with defensive line penetration, how we're blocking things, the comfort of the backs, how the defense responds to tosses, sometimes it helps you, sometimes it hurts you, so it's all game-plan specific. And we have good, more than good, we have really good blockers at tight end, so a lot of times when you're trying to utilize that, tossing the ball can get the ball to them quicker and it helps them impact the game. But there's a multitude of reasons and I wouldn't say specifically that there's a reason that the ones to the right have worked other than that on those given plays, the right side has executed blocks well. And then when they've overran it, the backside of [OL] Laken Tomlinson and [T] Trent [Williams] have done a good job on the backside blocks. So that's pretty much the reason. There's a multitude of reasons, all of which we consider every single play, probably to a fault."

With your vantage point from the booth, when you can see that all-22, can you notice anything about how Elijah Mitchell's getting in a flow of a game from your view?

"For sure."

How so?

"You can feel, especially from the box, you can feel the momentum of defenders and you can feel when plays are blocked for three or four and you can feel the momentum of the runner get seven. That vantage point is very impactful for the momentum of run plays, for the line of scrimmage in general, and pass plays. You can really from the sideline copy, essentially is what you're looking at. It's one of the reasons that it is an advantage to be up there, to see it all play out."

I think you're averaging something like 8.8 yards a play when WR Deebo Samuel lines up in the backfield. A small sample size, but other than just getting the ball in the hands of a really good player as much as you can, why do you think it's so successful and what does it do to defenses, just having the threat of him in that position?

"Oh, because that's something that happens organically when you're trying to solve gameplanning issues, week in and week out. One game in particular, there was a team that played a lot of man coverage, so that was a reason to have him in the backfield to see how they align. But also, Deebo has been making a ton of plays with the ball in his hands, so defenses are aware of that. And when you do have success at anything, it allows you to anticipate some overplay for things because they better defend it and that opens up other things. So I think the stuff that Deebo has done with the ball in his hands, we found a couple other ways to get him the ball. And then it's a reaction from there, which is probably why the stats have been so successful. I'm sure if we did it every play, the success rate would probably go, it wouldn't be as high, so you'd have to pick and choose. Otherwise we'd probably do it every single play, but that's something that organically happens depending on the defensive scheme that you have and the different problems they present."

Before you started going to that more, had you seen coverages rolled his way a little bit more? Is there an element of like, 'hey, this is a way we could get the ball in his hands and there's nothing they can do about it?'

"As far as coverages, we move our players around a lot. I think there's been a lot of stuff written about how much we motion. So it is hard for defenses to overplay with their backend pre-snap. But really it's just like, 'hey, what if we could get the ball to one of our best players, one of the best players in the league with the ball in his hands, and minimize the risk.' That's what a run is in general, it's just you're distributing the ball in a safer way. So when a guy is adept at carrying the ball in tight space and is tough enough and fast enough to get through holes like a running back, 'shoot, why don't we give him a couple of touches back there and see if he can get some explosives and not have to put the team in harm's way.' Be able to dictate the terms a little bit on the line of scrimmage and whatnot."

I think his role has evolved a lot as he's been here. Did you see this potential from him when you were looking at him at the senior bowl, per se?

"No, you knew that he could do some cool things and he was a tough player. I thought at the senior bowl, it really struck us that, 'hey, this is the type of guy that you want to be a part of your team touching the football.' So you're evaluating that. To say that we envisioned his role as it was last week, that would be a lie. That stuff kind of just comes organically. Because you have to teach a receiver to be a receiver first and the more he's comfortable in the offense, then you're like, 'hey, well, let's try doing this.' And then he's comfortable with that. It's a chore just for a receiver to learn how to align in the backfield. Receivers don't know what the B-gap is. So to tell them to align there, it can be a lot on someone's plate. Every single time he's in the backfield or every single time we're using him in different ways, that is something he has to learn and own. And you try not to get too ahead of yourself, because he's got to be a receiver that can catch a ball on third down as well and beat man coverage. So it's something that we've been fortunate enough to have experience with a lot of different types of players. Then there's a lot of stuff that people do around the league that you kind of catch an eye on. And then when the opportunity presents itself, you just try to do stuff that makes sense for your team and your offense."

Given what the Seahawks have been for over a decade, is it just weird to be preparing for a 3-8 Seahawks team?

"It's funny, you watch the tape and the tape doesn't match the record. I don't think there's a person in our building or a player in our locker room that would think of this team as a 3-8 football team at all. They play hard, they've lost games that were close. I think we can relate to that. And the Seahawks as a team, that still have their same mantra of they do not let anything happen to teams easy. There's a lot of people saying that the Packers are the best team in the NFL. Well, what was the score with five minutes to go just like two weeks ago? This is a team that you cannot take lightly and we sure aren't. It's hard enough to win in this league as it is, but the 3-8, we try to keep our brains to the film and what we see and what we prepare for it. And it does not look like that at all from a defensive perspective. They look as tough as ever."

How much progress have you been able to see from QB Trey Lance as far as operating from the pocket while he's been running the scout team here over the past few weeks?

"Oh, there's always progress because there are so many things that go into playing the quarterback position. So each and every day, he's presented with different challenges and is forced to operate within the pocket in different ways. He sees our coverages and has to execute various plays that overlap with our offense, so there's growth each and every week because you're getting to experience things. You get to have trials, errors, it's all about reps and each week is very important for him on the scout team, preparing our defense as well as preparing himself."

How much can he benefit, like we've asked you this in previous weeks when he's emulated other quarterbacks, but this week, I guess a little bit of Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, what goes into that?

"No, it is cool for him to find himself as a player. When your back-to-back weeks are [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk Cousins where you're primarily emphasizing pocket passing, and our defense has to be ready for off-schedules. I'm not sure if there's a quarterback that's done it better in this league than Russell Wilson. So, it is beneficial to have that variance because whatever you're emphasizing you get reps at that component of your game. So having them back-to-back weeks has been great for him."

WR Jauan Jennings was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. I don't know if you knew that before dialing that up, but did he earn maybe another crack at that somewhere down the line?

"For sure, everything's up. As you've noticed, if people have skill sets, sometimes it takes us a while to find them, but we try to utilize them. So he did nothing to keep us from doing it in the future. We did know that. The great thing about Jauan is if we ignored that fact, he would have let us know pretty quick. So we knew early that that was in his repertoire."

Did he tell you last year after you drafted him?

"Probably about 10 minutes after (laughing). No. Yeah, he's great. It's been great to see him get some experience. I think he has one completion. He's one for one, well, it was a penalty, it was nullified so. But yeah, the ball didn't hit the ground, so that's a win."

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

I have a long shot question for you, have you ruled out LB Fred Warner from playing this week or is there a chance that he might suit up?

"I'll defer all that to Kyle with the injuries."

The last three games, obviously, the defense has been off the field a lot more the way the offense is playing, but I think the run defense, it seems that it has been better on the interior. Has DL Arik Armstead's move to more defensive tackle alignment helped in that regard for the run defense?

"Yeah, I think with the run defense, it's been all of our guys inside. I feel like they've all played better. Starting with [DL] D.J. Jones. He's been in there. He's done a really good job of attacking and making plays inside. You see [DL] Kevin Givens stepping in and making a huge play for us there last week. And Arik has done a really good job inside as well, so all of those guys, [DL Kentavius] Street, Arik. D.J., just collectively as a group, all of our guys inside have played well."

Speaking of D.J., how much credit does he get for LB Azeez Al-Shaair's interception on Sunday?

"If he doesn't do what he did, with getting his hands up there, [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk [Cousins] is able to make a clean throw there. So I think that D.J. getting his hands up, effecting the quarterback there, it has everything to do with Azeez being able to get that interception and Azeez also did an awesome job of redirecting his body and being able to make that catch. It was a tough catch, but all credit goes to D.J. with him getting his hands up, affecting the quarterback. Something we've been trying to instill in our guys more. How can we affect the quarterback? And that's of course getting our hands up when we are close."

He gets off the line faster than anybody on that play. Was that just that play or is that something that you've been seeing from D.J., just really explosive get offs?

"Yeah, that's what he's been doing. He's just really taking hold of the scheme and doing what we ask him to do and that's attacking. That's our front. We want to play an attack front. And when our guys are attacking up front, their run game is better, pass game is better. Everything is better because everything is predicated on our defense line being aggressive and attacking the front. And when D.J. just does his job, nothing fancy, but he's just doing his job there on that play, attacking, doing what he is supposed to do, and it causes a turnover. And that's how, we haven't had turnovers, but they're coming now. It's just a matter of guys being fundamentally sound, owning their technique, doing their job to the best of their ability."

You've been around D.J. for a long time while you've been here. What steps has he taken since you've seen him from the beginning?

"Yeah I think D.J., from the beginning, he's always kind of been up and down, splash player, but I've seen him grow from the standpoint of him just being a more consistent player. He's been very consistent and he's been dominant. He's been on the other side of the line of scrimmage, which he can do consistently. And that's what he's proven. And that's how he's grown since he's been here. He's just becoming a more consistent, more dominant force inside. And that's the reason why we continue to play good defense is because of D.J. and what he does up front for us."

Kyle mentioned with Azeez that he flies around all the time, which is wonderful. But sometimes in the past, I guess more frequently than now, he'd fly around and perhaps not break down and missed tackles. Even at this level, do you go back to the fundamentals with a guy like that? Like I'm going to break down Azeez or, how do you deal with that if that was like an issue?

"Yeah. That is Azeez. That's who he is. He is probably one of our best effort players. When you turn on our tape, you're going to see 51 flying around sideline-to-sideline making plays. And that's what I want from him. That's what I expect from him. Love the aggressiveness and at the end of the day, when it comes to the point in time to make that tackle, when you're flying around like that, sometimes you may miss, but that's okay if I have 10 other guys flying around at the same speed and with the same mentality that Azeez is flying around with. So Azeez, he has just continued to do what he's doing. He's been doing a great job, having the best year of his career. And I see him just continue to get better and better each week. But when you fly around like that, that's what we want. And of course, sometimes you may miss, but it's all about those other guys coming as well and are they flying around as quick as him."

He had what seemed like an underrated play, I think it was the last tackle when he got Minnesota Vikings RB Alexander Mattison on the second down on the last drive before you get to the sideline. Is that just an example of like you said him being able to get sideline-to-sideline?

"Yeah, of course and Azeez, he plays all over the field and that play there during the two-minute drive. We try to teach our guys in two-minute, you want to tackle the outside leg, knock guys back, so the clock can continue to run. And that was a perfect example from not only Azeez, but also E-Man [CB Emmanuel Moseley] had a tackle on that same drive. That's exactly what we want there to continue to make the clock move. So that's Azeez, he's all over the place, he plays with a lot of energy, hair is on fire and he's a guy who can rally the guys around him as well."

How is Moseley playing and how much do he and everybody else in the secondary got to watch out for the deep ball with Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson? Have you noticed any difference in Russell's deep ball the last three games?

"Yeah. I think E-man has done a good job. E-man has been consistent for us. One of the most consistent guys in the backend. E-man is doing a good job for us. And when it comes to Russell and the deep ball and those things, guys just have to play their techniques. We know they're going to try to attack us with [Seattle Seahawks WR D.K.] Metcalf, get him the ball. So our guys are aware of that, but guys can't panic or anything. When that time comes, you just have to trust their preparation and what they've been doing all week, what they've been studying all week, just trust that and go play fast, man, go play confident. That's what our guys have to do."

As S Talanoa Hufanga develops, how fun is it for you to find ways to get him on the field in those three safety sets, because obviously those have been increasing here over the past couple of weeks?

"Yeah, with Talanoa getting on the field is just a credit to him. First off, how smart he is. First things first, he's a very sharp guy. He can handle a lot and I put a lot on him and he's able to handle it. He does a great job of studying and always being prepared. So, with that, we try to get him out on the field as much as we can because you see he can be a playmaker for us and he's made some big time plays for us when he's out there, so as much as I can, I want to keep him out on the field."

You have a bigger sample size of Seattle with their new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, at this point, than you did the first time. What have you seen in that group? And what are maybe some strengths and weaknesses that you've identified now that you have a bigger sample to work with?

"Yeah, I think it's still Seattle. As I watch these guys and study them, they want to run the ball. They want to keep the game manageable, so Russ can get there in the fourth quarter and be Russ and try to make a miraculous play to win a game. So to me, everything they do offensively has still been the same. They have a few more wrinkles here and there with some play action plays. But for the gist of everything it's still, Seattle heavy. They want to run the ball, play action pass, take some deep shots to [Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler] Lockett. It's still who they are. We've went against these guys a lot. We know it's going to be a tough battle, those guys always are competitive. They're going to play hard, just as we are. So it's always going to be a good matchup."

With them struggling as much as they have in the last few weeks, how much do you brace for that? Like, 'Hey, you guys, they're eventually going to snap out of this?'

"When you look at the tape and you really watch these guys, these games are all close. Their record may not say that, but all of the games, they've been in. So our guys aren't looking at it like, 'Oh, look at that record. They're not who they've been.' Seattle is still the same. They're going to play tough. They'll be in the game, no matter how the game looks, how the outcome looks. They always find a way to be in games and have an opportunity, a chance to win the game. Just like they did on Monday night, as bleak as the situation looks, they still are able to generate a drive there when they need it. So, we're not overlooking these guys or everything like that. We know this is going to be a tough matchup. We've got to play our best ball against these guys if we expect to win."

I've got another D.J. question. I think early in his career, stamina was a question mark with him playing well into December and January. How has he done in that regard? How is he looking right now?

"Yeah, a big credit to D.J.. I think when he came into camp, he came back probably in the best shape that he's been in and he's sustained that throughout the entire year. So it's just a credit to how D.J. has worked in the offseason. And he hasn't missed a ton of time, he's been available and he's been able to showcase his talent. And that's what you see. Like he's been out there. He's been able to showcase a consistent and dominant player inside, so it's a credit to him and just how he's worked from the offseason and how it's paid off for him throughout the year."

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