Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: McDaniel raves about Deebo, says Garoppolo playing his best football; Nick Bosa on ‘beatable’ Cowboys OTs, Ezekiel Elliot; It’s sunny in Trent Williams’ world

Jan 13, 2022 at 7:18 PM--

As always, Thursday was an eventful media day for the San Francisco 49ers, who had a number of players speak to the media as well as defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel.

49ers Webzone has already dug into a number of topics discussed by those players and coaches, but there's much more to cover than that. We'll get into that in today's notebook feature below. Here's a rundown of a number of items of note covered during today's media sessions.

(See also: John Lynch says Deebo Samuel will be with the 49ers for a long time | DL Arden Key says coming to 49ers has exceeded expectations: 'I love it here' | Transcripts: What Mike McDaniel and DeMeco Ryans said ahead of 49ers-Cowboys | 49ers-Cowboys Injury Report | Trent Williams won't require surgery | McDaniel not focused on head coaching jobs | George Kittle calls Trent Williams 'the best player I've ever played with')

* The joy of coaching Deebo Samuel: McDaniel spoke at length Thursday about wide receiver Deebo Samuel, whose success running the football as well as catching passes this season cemented him as one of the most unique and dangerous weapons in the NFL. McDaniel told reporters that 49ers coaches found throughout the season that Samuel had it in him to take on more of a load than they thought, and that perhaps they're still working on ways to get him more involved.

"If you've watched any of the draft coverage the last couple of years, people have been trying to find the next Deebo," McDaniel said. "The problem is there's one Deebo. Maybe that opportunity will open it up for other guys with his skillsets. But he's a rare, rare player. For him to be able to contribute in the way he does, I mean shoot, it's taken time for us to adjust just because you're going step by step. With a player learning your offense, you want him to master stuff before you move on. We've learned this year that hey, this guy can handle more within our system and we can find different ways to get him the ball because he's truly truly special at doing so."

McDaniel said that Samuel's ability to play multiple roles and pick things up quickly is an advantage for coaches.

"It's a competitive challenge," McDaniel said. "It's a wonderful opportunity. It's something that you really dream of as a coach in terms of being able to utilize people in different ways to try to find advantageous looks for the offense in general. I would say we challenge ourselves to open our mind and really see how we can do our best to stress a defense out, but don't get it twisted. It's a good stress, something that you're challenging yourself with because all he does is alleviate stress on gamedays for his teammates and coaches alike. It's a lot easier to figure stuff out on Monday and Tuesday with the problem you're trying to solve is, 'How do you get this guy the ball?' And on gameday, 'Hey, Deebo, here's the ball.' That's the best thing for a coach you could possibly imagine."

Samuel has proven this season to be the type of player worthy of MVP votes, but he might not be at his peak. That's because he's more dedicated to becoming great than many on the outside realize and won't be satisfied until he can maximize his talent.

"He impresses me because he's a guy that has an unbelievable will to get better," McDaniel said. "He's such a cool personality that he never seems stressed. It's kind of a misrepresentation of how diligent he is in terms of progressing at his craft. I think he'll be done worried about getting better when he starts getting some 50 to 55-yard punts off because then his game is complete. Otherwise, he is working day in, day out to put his best foot forward and take advantage of the opportunity. He's a wise 25, soon to be 26-year-old on Saturday, and he's getting better and better as we progress. As a result, the 49ers are getting better as well."

* Jimmy at his best? 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has had a roller coaster of a season that has resulted in weeks of praise at times and other weeks where fans and even media start to wonder if the team should consider switching to rookie Trey Lance. Garoppolo's performance in last Sunday's memorable 27-24 overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams was a microcosm of his season, as he was shaky in the first half while the 49ers dug themselves a 17-0 hole before fighting through a thumb injury in the second half to rally the team to a come-from-behind victory to seal a playoff spot.

What will Garoppolo bring to this Sunday's Wild Card game against the Dallas Cowboys? It's anyone's guess, but right now the Jimmy praise meter is at a high point. McDaniel commented on the ability Garoppolo has shown to win games during crunch time and said Garoppolo is better than ever at the moment.

"I think he's exhibiting even more ownership of the offense, and I think he's really flexing his mental ability to have his vision forward and take any obstacle as a challenge," McDaniel said. "And really we're seeing the best football Jimmy has played. His teammates can feel it. I think you guys feel it. I think the fans feel it. And that's to his credit—just reps in the system and cutting it loose and his teammates playing well around him."

* Bosa talks about his opponent this week, and an old friend: Nick Bosa and the 49ers defensive line will face a Cowboys offensive line this week that certainly has name recognition but has also drawn some criticism for not playing up to expectations. The 49ers head into the game playing quality ball up front on defense—a trend that could continue.

Two well-known players Bosa and the defensive line will face on Sunday are tackles Tyron Smith and La'El Collins. Bosa paid some respect to each player but also showed some confidence in the line's ability to win their battles.

"I think they're both very solid players," Bosa said. "Obviously Tyron's had a Hall of Fame career I think, and him and Trent (Williams) have been the best tackles in the league for a long time. But they're definitely beatable. There's tape on them getting beat, and we're trying to do the same. They've definitely been in and out of the lineup a lot this year and in past years. The game plan is to make them work."

Bosa will also get a chance to run into (literally) Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, whom Bosa has been friendly with for a long time. Bosa's brother Joey was roommates with Elliott when the two were in college at Ohio State, and Nick became friends with Elliott when he used to visit the two of them on campus.

"I keep in touch with Zeke a little bit," Bosa said. "Obviously we're both busy. But I love Zeke. I remember hanging out with him and Joey when I would come visit when I was in high school. They were a lot of fun. But I think whatever I could tell the defense about him, they already know. They see it on film. He's a really good player and we're going to have our hands full."

* It's Always Sunny In the Postseason: While many on the 49ers' roster had the privilege of playing in the Super Bowl two years ago, there are those who weren't with the team in 2019 who are getting a rare playoff opportunity this week. One of them is left tackle Trent Williams, who hasn't seen much time in the postseason during his decade-plus in the NFL after spending most of his career in Washington.

As a matter of fact, Williams can't even remember everything about his last playoff experience during his days with the now-Washington Football Team. But he couldn't be happier about things this week now that he's finally back in the postseason again.

"Last time I was in the playoffs was 2016—the 2015 season," Williams said Thursday. "Literally six years ago, so that's twice the career length of an average NFL player. I don't even remember what it was like in 2016, I'm going to be honest with you. I don't remember how I felt around the building, how the vibe was. But I know now the vibe is amazing. The sun's shining brighter, it seems like. You wake up, the day starts out nicer. Having that vibe and knowing that half of the league is already enjoying the offseason, and then there's another half of the teams that took care of business during the that gets to play for something more. To know you're part of that bunch, it definitely breathes confidence into the organization, but it allows you to take a step back and look at the hard work."

Tight end George Kittle is one of the many 49ers players who were part of the Super Bowl team in 2019, and he says that the lack of postseason experience from players such as Williams and center Alex Mack helps him appreciate this year's opportunity.

"I get to play in my fourth postseason game, which is more than (former NFL tight end) Tony Gonzalez ever got to play in, in like 17 years," Kittle said. "Trent Williams has played in two in his whole career. Alex Mack I think is at four, maybe five. So you never know when you're going to get the opportunity. I think Alex Mack said he hadn't played in a postseason game until year eight. The fact I get to play in my second postseason in year five, every single snap matters."

* Is another rare opportunity about to make Williams' week even better? Given how good he's been throughout his career, some may be surprised to learn that Williams has never been selected as a first-team All-Pro. He's also only been selected as a second-team All-Pro twice, even though he's made the Pro Bowl nine times.

That could change on Friday when the 2021 All-Pro teams are announced. Williams was widely regarded as the best tackle in the league this season, so there's certainly momentum for him to break his dry spell. He admitted it would be a happy moment if he got selected, but he's not too worked up about it after falling short so many times in the past.

"I think it'd feel good finally. It sucks because I can't let it define my career because I've never made it," Williams said. "If I felt like that's what I needed to define my career, then anything I've done up to now is really hogwash in my opinion. It would definitely feel good to get a notch if that happens, but at this point, I'm not putting a whole lot of time into it or not a lot of thought going into it. If I make it, I make it.

Williams added, "I've been disappointed year after year after year, so it's really come to a point where I'm almost numb to it. Yeah, I would love to make it, but I'm not looking forward to it. I didn't even know it was coming out just because I'm so used to getting that disappointment. If it happens, it happens, and I'll thank God and keep moving."

* How Jauan Jennings inspires Williams: Young 49ers receiver Jauan Jennings has been on the rise over the second half of the season, with his best game yet coming in the overtime win against the Rams (six catches, 94 yards, two touchdowns). But while he's started to get things done statistically in recent weeks, Jennings has long made his presence felt with his enthusiasm and upbeat energy.

Jennings had to wait his turn after being selected in Round 7 of the 2020 NFL Draft, spending time on the practice squad last season before coming down with injury issues. He's gotten his opportunity this season and is making the most of it, while also giving a longtime pro like Williams a reminder of what it was like to be a young player who achieved his lifelong dream.

"For myself, just being a guy in his 12th year, it energizes you when you see that type of raw emotion," Williams said. "...Jauan is only in his second year and it's really his first year. He spent a lot of the year hurt last year. But to see him living out his dreams and to see that it really means a lot to him—he doesn't take it for granted. He's not one of those guys who wakes up and says 'I'm supposed to be here, I deserve to be here.' He works every day for his spot. He's worked up the depth chart. He's worked up the roster. He has a very infectious type of energy that he brings to the huddle, that he brings to the locker room.

"It kind of re-centers me a little bit to say I'm so far removed of accomplishing me dream that now it's work, and to see somebody who's in that honeymoon period of accomplishing that dream, I think it's refreshing for me. I love to see it. He's a guy that when you put that much passion and you care that much about what you do, I honestly feel like the sky's the limit for him."

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