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

Dec 9, 2021 at 5:46 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Cincinnati Bengals 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

WR Jauan Jennings has been a very big part of the offense, blocking, passing, etc. over the last several weeks, what have you seen from him that's helped him to make these strides this season?

"Growth, he's grown as a player. The thing about professional football is that it is a legitimate transition from being a student athlete, to being a pro. You have guys that you're playing with that have been doing it for a decade. Where this is what you live and breathe, and there's an adjustment period. So having the injury last year was tough on him, but what I think the whole team has seen is a guy that's developing his ability to be a professional football player and approach each week and each opponent in a way that the rest of his teammates can count on. It is a full-time job. These guys get one day off and everything they do between or in front and behind that day off is either to do with their body or to get ready for an opponent. And he's done a great job taking advantage of an opportunity that he's received this year."

When you guys resigned T Trent Williams in the offseason, head coach Kyle Shanahan said something to the effect that you guys had plans to use him in different ways. Obviously maybe throwing a pass here and there is part of that, but in terms of blocking, what is it about his skillset that maybe allows you to do that and how does that kind of manifest?

"Well, it's about as easy as it gets for a coach. I think if you polled the league's coaches and players, Trent is a very unique player at his position in that he's been probably the best athlete for about a decade at the position. He's one of the only guys that I've ever been around that could legitimately play defensive line at a high level as an O-Lineman. Typically, they're just not that type of athlete. I think coming out, he ran like a 4.7 or a 4.8 and he was 325 or something crazy. But on top of that, what people don't realize, is that Trent is very mindful about his craft. He is very crafty in the game and it means a lot to him. He's very prideful and all of that stuff makes it very easy to utilize him at the point of attack. And you start realizing, 'Oh, we could down block here, pull here,' which you've seen. The football enthusiasts have seen his game grow within our offense a little bit because of that, because we're all growing together as coaches and players. Unparalleled talent in conjunction with a guy that it means a lot to, that is trying to be the best of the best each and every day. That's meant a lot for our team and allowed us to do a lot of cool things with him this season and we'll hopefully continue to do."

I'm assuming you've never been able to say that about a tackle like, 'We could game plan new things for him to do.' What is that like for you then? Like how much fun is it to think of things a whole different way based on what he can do?

"It's awesome for the whole staff. It just opens your mind. You just have different options. 'Oh, hey, there's this wide defensive technique or a tight one, if we need to cut a guy off if there's an extremely good player. Okay. Let's run right.' We have that option when we're playing really good players, which you see almost every week. It is really cool. You feel spoiled because there's been time between our stints and we've had very good players, been very fortunate to have very good players at that position, but there is only one Trent Williams. So you try not to take it for granted because you know your time with him is limited and you want to take best advantage of it."

On George Kittle's second touchdown, the one down the sideline, when you guys do your film review Monday where you go over some plays, obviously there was a lot of bad plays to go over, but that was a pretty exceptional one. Just kind of what was the reaction from that? Or what was your reaction when you saw it on film?

"Oh, it was an exciting moment. It was cool to see George feel that he had that extra gear. I think you guys heard it during the week. He took Seahawks week very personal. Wanted to do everything in his power to will us to victory. Wins and losses, they drive our livelihood for sure. But you also are very careful to not only celebrate good plays when you win. You have to have a standard with how you operate. And there's a lot of things that factor into a win or a loss. So we use those clips, especially that. That was a great team clip. If you go rewatch it, Jauan Jennings and [WR] Brandon Aiyuk both make fantastic plays and Kittle takes advantage of it. That's the type of team ball that when we win games, we win because of stuff like that. So you don't lose sight of that at all. Yeah, you always want to win. But the biggest thing is that you use every circumstance to try to make your team better moving forward, because the fact of the matter is, we're in December and we're playing meaningful football. And that's really what you work for from February on. We have everything you want right in front of us, so you don't let losing lose sight of that. We're on to the next, we're playing the Cincinnati Bengals and hopefully we have some more plays like that from George and from his teammates."

The Bengals, this might get too much into scheme, but how do they usually cover tight ends? And I'm asking that since they're down a few linebackers. I know linebackers or safeties, a lot of different people can cover George.

"The Bengals, they do a really good job. And one of the things that they do a great job of is there's not one way that they try to defend things. Their game plan specific. We know that and they have various types of zones and man coverages and situationally, we'll see both. And it's just all about the timing of plays called and what our players do within those plays. He'll have his opportunities to touch the ball in some way, shape or form. I think he's excited for that. I think they're very mindful of the fact that he is an explosive player, so I'm sure they'll have things that we haven't seen, which is kind of par for the course. And especially with the Bengals, they give stuff to opposing offenses each and every week that's a little different. And they do a good job up with it."

The Bengals have been much better against the run than the pass this year. You guys obviously like to use the run to open up the passing game. How does that maybe affect your guys game plan at all?

"They've done an outstanding job defending the run. I think they have put in multiple fronts and coverages and their defense plays hard. So you try to go into the game, giving your players the most information and the best information possible. You try to say, 'Okay, this is what they do,' and give them tools and the game will play out as it will. If they want to overplay things and overplay the run game, you have to make them pay in the pass game and vice versa. But the biggest thing is that you just get guys to be prepared for who they're playing against. So they're not caught off guard in the moment on Sunday, because that's a little too late. So in terms of preparation, we still have the same amount of runs and passes we typically have in a gameplan. And I think our guys believe that they can run and pass the ball and we'll try to do both at a high level on Sunday."

How big of a problem, I guess literally, is Cincinnati Bengals DT D.J. Reader?

"He's a big, problem."

Is he actually 347?

"I would check the scales. It might be close to that. He's just doing a really good job. Whatever he is, he's a big man that's in shape. So he's not a big man that's overweight. He's playing at a high level. And he can run laterally and do a lot of things and make plays for them. He is an issue, it doesn't take long for him to jump off tape and know that you have internal issues that come with that."

On the tight rope touchdown, it seemed like Jauan was deeper than George, he was open too. What were you thinking at the point, watching up high, as that play is developing? Did you think that that ball should have gone to Jauan or, obviously it worked out great, but what's the right read on that one?

"No, George was first in progression. They were kind of tight because the weakside defender kind of grabbed George and kind of, in a football legal fashion, kind of grabbed him. And so there was a moment in time where like, 'Hey, this might be Jauan's ball,' but George was number one in progression and Jimmy layered in nice. And the best part of it was both other eligibles that were running routes in that direction. Jauan and Aiyuk, didn't hesitate at all. They transitioned and tried to block for their teammate, which coach Shanahan does a great job in team meetings and in offensive meetings, making sure that everyone never loses sight of, 'Okay, George is having success on this play, but look what it took by the whole unit for him to show off his athletic prowess.' It wasn't done on his own and we wouldn't have ever seen the tight rope if both of those eligibles hadn't immediately transitioned and tried to block for a touchdown that George had about out this much room to get to and he did it."

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

What are your thoughts on this Bengals offense? A lot of young, up and coming offensive players there. Does it start with Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon or does it start with Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow?

"Yeah, I think the Bengals are very talented, just as a group. Probably one of the most talented groups we'll see, starting with the running back, Mixon, and you go to the quarterback, young quarterback, Burrow. Who's smart, very talented, great arm strength. He's very decisive and knows where to go with the ball. And then on the outside, all of the receivers that they have, a lot of play makers out there. The tight end position, probably some of the better tight ends in the blocking game that we've seen. So all around, those skill positions, they've done a really good job of acquiring talent there and adding true playmakers."

CB K'Waun Williams knows Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd pretty well from college, correct? And they played against each other a couple years ago?

"I'm not sure."

With DL Nick Bosa and Joe Burrow having a friendship and a relationship, have you seen any extra excitement from Nick this week in getting to go after that particular quarterback?

"No, I haven't seen any extra excitement with Nick knowing Joe, but he's been the same just going through his normal routine, normal prep week for him. Just preparing as best he can to go against this offensive line, who's really talented as well that I didn't mention. So Nick is having a normal prep week."

There is never any time where he actually does waiver though, is there?

"Nick is a very consistent player. I think that's what makes him so good. It's about being consistent in this league and that's one thing, Nick is very consistent with his routine, with his preparation throughout the week, practice habits. He's always doing the same things, which allows him to go out on Sunday and be a consistent playmaker on Sunday for us."

How did LB Azeez Al-Shaair handle everything on Sunday stepping into the MIKE role?

"I thought Azeez did really well. Yeah, he was he was calm. He communicated very well. He didn't try to do too much. He let the game come to him, made the plays that he was supposed to make. Made a huge play there for us at the end, as everybody saw, with him getting the ball out. But Azeez, he's been having an outstanding year. This is a career year for him and he's playing lights out every week and there hasn't been any let down from him. I love his energy, love his passion, love the way he plays the game, the physical mindset, he's everything you want in linebacker."

Fred said yesterday that DL D.J. Jones might have the most football strength of anyone on the team. Different than weight lifting strength, I guess he's okay in the weight room too. Does he remind you of someone, obviously defensive lineman are strong, almost by definition, but does he remind you of someone that you played with? Like when you see him being able to shed blocks like he does?

"I think D.J. is in his own category, but I think a guy who I've seen with the strength and power that D.J. has, similar guy, different body types, but Philadelphia Eagles DL Fletcher Cox is one guy I played with who's very physical guy, being able to shed blocks and wreck things in the backfield and that's what you see D.J. doing as well. So the one guy I played with that I can compare him to from that nature, as far as being violent, attacking, knocking guys back and making plays in the backfield would be Fletcher Cox."

He had back-to-back plays where he dropped Seattle Seahawks RB Adrian Peterson for a five-yard loss and then he got out on the screen and caused the fumble. That flashed his strength and he moves pretty well too.

"Oh yeah. D.J. moves very well. To be an interior D-Lineman, he moves very well. And he has the mindset to get to the ball with urgency. He's coming out of the stack, he fills his screen and he's running as fast as he can. But the guys on the outside did a really good job of setting the edge so D.J. didn't have to run as far. So they made a guy go back inside and D.J. has just awareness to attack the ball as he's coming out of the stack. It was a huge play in the game for us. And [CB Emmanuel Moseley] E-Man is able to recover that ball. That's what we talk about. That's what we harp on. Guys swarming to the ball, attacking the ball and that was all encompassed in that one play."

Joe Burrow has a lot of weapons, but he has thrown 14 interceptions, how can you guys kind of take advantage of some of his gambles?

"We just have to be who we are. Our defense, we pride ourselves on trying to get after the ball, trying to attack the ball as much as possible. He's a young quarterback, who can struggle at times, so we just have to play our game. That's the main thing. It's not about doing anything special. It's about us just being who we are. Our guys understand that, when they go line up, we're going to play hard. They're going to make plays. And we just have to go with our same mindset that we take every week. And our guys can do that. They can get after the ball, they can attack the ball and get some turnovers."

The last time we saw Nick Bosa emotional was maybe the Super Bowl, or maybe when he actually tore his ACL. Was that what you see from him? Like he doesn't really get super emotional about anything in particular?

"Nick is not a guy who's going to get too high or get too low. He's a very even keeled guy. And again, that's him, that's what I like about all our guys. Everybody can just be themselves. Everybody can be themselves and all our guys just gel together and work really well together. But Nick is an even keeled guy, it doesn't matter. Everybody's going to respect you if you go out and play the way he plays. So for everybody, whether you're a hype guy, like Azeez or [LB] Fred [Warner], or you're cool, calm and collected like Nick, that's the cool part about football. Like different guys, all different backgrounds, different emotional awareness or whatever it may be, those guys being able to come together as a team and go out there and play for each other, that's why he loved the game of football so much."

When you have a situation like you did Sunday when E-Man goes out and you go to DB Deommodore Lenoir, he gets a penalty and then you go to CB Dontae Johnson, how do you kind of go through the process of making the decision of like, 'Okay, we want him to get the playing time, we want him to get the experience, but also this is an important game and we need to get the veteran in there.' How do you kind of find that balance?

"Yeah. It's about all our guys just being accountable when you're in. For me, all those guys just have to be accountable. All those guys will be out there. All those guys will be playing, gaining experience, but it's about also the importance of being accountable to your teammates."

S Talanoa Hufanga, what have you seen as his biggest improvement since he got here?

"I think the biggest improvement has just been his communication as he continues to play and get more experience out there, just understanding how much more he has to communicate and not so much think about what he has to do. You can see him evolving and growing as a better communicator. That's one thing I've seen him get better at. The confidence level has always been there with him, so he still has that, but now he's communicating even better."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday, he wanted to see CB Ambry Thomas and Deommodore push CB Josh Norman and Dontae Johnson at practice, how has that looked the last two days?

"Yeah. All those guys are practicing really well. I think all of them had a good practice. Our guys came out with intent. They've been deliberate in practice this week, so all those guys are doing really well this week of helping each other and pushing each other."

What do Ambry and Deommodore need to do to push that envelope?

"Just keep being consistent. Like I talked about earlier, those guys just have to be consistent and they have to be accountable. You have each one of us, we all have a job to do. The guys just have to be accountable and their teammates have to be able to count on them to go out there and do their job and do it at a high level."

Nick's numbers for rushing from the left and rushing from the right are really similar. Is that rare that a defensive end can be equally effective. And did you ever play with any that did as much left side versus right side as Nick is doing?

"Yeah, it is impressive to see that because you see some guys, they just get comfortable doing one side. They only rush from the right or only rush from the left, so it has been impressive to see Nick move around right or left. And it really doesn't matter where he is, he's effective no matter where he is on the field, wherever he lines up along the defensive line. And the one guy that I played with that was similar in that way was [Arizona Cardinals DE] J.J. Watt. He was a guy who you could move around, no matter whatever the matchup was that week, he can win against anybody. So you allowed him to move around whoever he wanted to go against, you take him. So that's kind of the same approach we take with Nick, whoever he wants to line up against, he has that freedom to do it because he's shown us he can win against anyone."

Offensive tackles talk about how difficult it is to switch sides. Is it similar for edge rushers? Is it technically difficult to do?

"Yeah. I think it is difficult when you talk about your stance and footwork and you have to rep it and you have to just take your body through that process when you've been so accustomed to doing it one way. So there is, mechanically getting your body, your mind right. To rush from the left side, it's just changing up the footwork, but it takes time. And Nick has worked really hard at it and he practices it when nobody else is out there. He's working on his stance, working on his footwork and he's done a heck of a job of it."

A couple years ago, Dontae Johnson, I think he bounced around like three different teams. The 49ers, the Bills, it looked like the typical, he's at the end of his career and it's all over. And he's bounced around here, obviously. How is he, I don't mean this disrespectfully, but how is he still in the league? Like what does he do that makes him like, 'Okay, no, we actually, we need him'?

"Yeah. Dontae, one thing Dontae does is Dontae is a very accountable teammate. Dontae is a guy you can depend on to handle his job the right way, to be a pro on and off the field. That's what has made Dontae stick around in NFL so long. He's a true vet, a true pro, a guy who knows where to be, knows how to do his job and he also has that ability where he's not selfish from that standpoint to where he's always teaching the younger guys as well. And so that's what keeps Dontae around. He's a smart guy. He can play multiple positions. Dontae has played on the outside, has played the nickel position, has played safety for us. So when you get a guy who is as versatile and as smart as Dontae, you'll stick around in this league. The more you can do, you'll stick around. And that's where Dontae has really earned himself right to be in his league for as long as he has, just because of him being as versatile and as smart as he is."

His versatility and leadership, how important is that for the younger guys? The Ambry Thomases of the world, the Lenoirs of the world. How important is that?

"Yeah, it's huge, man. That's one thing about this league, when I came into the league an older guy brought me in and taught me how to watch film, taught me how to study, taught me how to play the position the right way. We're all standing on the backs of guys who've come before us and paved the way. So the NFL, the locker room has just always been about unselfish guys. And that's why the league has just sustained itself because everybody comes in, you know when you're getting up in age, you know that your time is not going to be much longer. So how much can you impart onto the next person so they can keep moving forward? What I learned from guys when I came in, I tried to implore that to [Arizona Cardinals LB] Jordan Hicks or [Former Houston Texans LB] Brian Cushing, guys I played with, [Free Agent LB] Mychal Kendricks. It's on me. It's my duty to teach these guys because somebody took the time to teach me. So that's where you see guys like Dontae Johnson, that's why he's able to do what he does. He's just paying it forward and somebody probably taught him the same way."
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