Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Ryans, Foerster evaluate rookies; What happened on the Pettis play?; Former Seahawk K.J. Wright slams 49ers QB situation

Sep 15, 2022 at 5:53 PM--

There's still much to discuss (and much to move on from) when it comes to the 49ers' Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears, and on Thursday it was time for defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and offensive line coach/run game coordinator Chris Foerster to offer their perspectives on what went right and what went wrong last Sunday.

Ryans gave some thoughts on the performance of a couple key defensive linemen, while each coach gave their evaluation of the rookies on their side of the ball that got significant playing time. Ryans also talked about the touchdown pass from Bears quarterback Justin Fields to former 49ers receiver Dante Pettis and what his players did incorrectly on the play.

There were also a couple noteworthy quotes to come from the radio airwaves, in particular the thoughts of former Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, who made it clear he doesn't agree with the path the 49ers chose at quarterback.

Let's dive into those topics and more in this edition of 49ers Notebook.

Grading the rookies

Two rookie players saw the field a lot for the 49ers on Sunday, as expected, with cornerback and fifth-round pick Samuel Womack lining up at the nickel spot while fourth-round pick Spencer Burford started at right guard. Womack played 26 snaps and nine snaps on special teams and was given a lukewarm evaluation from Ryans, who wants to see his rookie corner continue to grow in the weeks ahead.

"He did some good things in his first game," Ryans said Thursday. "He also has a ways to go. He has to continue to play better for us. I thought he was okay in his first game. But we've been grinding him, been working him to continue to up his level of play and he's going to do a good job for us."

Foerster seemed satisfied overall with the performance of his offensive line, calling it a "solid first outing" that he wasn't disappointed in while adding "they played okay." His evaluation of Burford's debut sounded more upbeat than what Ryans said of Womack.

"He went out there and competed and did a nice job," Foerster said of Burford, who played on all 68 snaps on offense. "I'm really happy with the way he played. Like I said, it was okay. There's a lot of things to clean up for him, but overall from a production standpoint, it was a good outing for him."

Foerster may have a couple more rookies to evaluate this week. With running back Elijah Mitchell now on injured reserve with a sprained MCL, the 49ers could give more reps to third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price (who was inactive in Week 1) and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason (who was only on the field for five special teams plays in Week 1). Time will tell how the 49ers decide to split the carries this week, but Foerster believes the rookies are making progress.

"They've been really working hard to get it and to pick everything up and to do things the right way... There's always going to be a learning curve with every young player, but boy they've worked really hard this week and they've looked good," Foerster said.

Ryans on Kinlaw, Bosa

Two defensive players of interest for the 49ers against the Bears were defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who was playing in his first regular season game since season-ending surgery in 2021, and defensive end Nick Bosa, who was facing a young group of Bears offensive linemen. Ryans liked what he saw from Kinlaw, who played in 39 snaps and got some pressure on Fields in the early going.

"Kinlaw did really well, to start the game off (getting) pressure on the quarterback, to force an errant throw," Ryans said. "He played with great pad level. He's doing a really good job inside. He played well for us. Kinlaw is another guy who will continue to get better as he continues to play. I'm happy with where he is. He did a good job for us on Sunday."

Bosa finished with five tackles, one sack and two quarterback hits. His sack came early in the game, but he didn't get many opportunities to get more. Ryans praised Bosa's performance on Sunday even though the game's wet weather wasn't on his side.

"There weren't many pass attempts and the field (had) sloppy conditions, so there was a lot of run game we saw," Ryans said of Bosa. "Depending on which side they're running to, it kind of takes him out of the game. But he did a good job, good effort. He was attacking the ball. He was playing the right style. He did a really good job for us but it was really tough conditions for everyone out there. When you are in those conditions, it's just hard to get the proper footing to go rush the passer. Guys are not dropping back as much, so you won't have as many opportunities."

The turning point

The 49ers had all the momentum in their favor in their 19-10 loss to the Bears Sunday until Fields found Pettis for a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter, which came after a game-turning face mask penalty on linebacker Dre Greenlaw that kept the Bears' offense on the field after what would have been a failed third down. Fields was running away from the 49ers' pass rush on the play but turned around to find Pettis all alone on the opposite side of the field, after which he lofted a pass that Pettis caught and ran into the end zone to cut the 49ers' lead to 10-7.

What went wrong for the 49ers on that play from a defensive standpoint? Ryans called it a breakdown in coverage that was due to players wanting to come after Fields after he left the pocket.

"We can't have everyone running down to get the quarterback if he's not past the line of scrimmage," Ryans said. "It was just one of those plays that he got out of the pocket, guys got antsy in coverage, and guys just -- just undisciplined from the standpoint of trying to go get the quarterback too quickly. He found one, and it was a great play by him to be able to throw that ball back across the field and make a play like that. It was a good play by Justin Fields."

There were a few bad moments for the defense on Sunday, which Ryans said did not come as a result of Week 1 mistakes. Ryans believes his players were ready to deal with the challenges Week 1 brings and more often than not did their job.

"I think we've had a lot of reps of training camp. We've had preseason games. So I don't attribute it to being Week 1," Ryans said. "I think Week 1, you should come out and the focus has always been on your fundamentals and technique. That's the things you need to rely on in Week 1, and we did that for the most part. Our guys, they played their butts off for the most part. They played outstanding. We just had a few breakdowns with the penalties that we can clean up, and we've just got to go get the ball more."

Tell us how you really feel K.J.

With his former team coming to Levi's Stadium this week, former Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright took a few minutes to speak with 95.7 The Game on Thursday and weighed in on what the 49ers are doing at the quarterback position. Wright, who recently announced his retirement from the NFL, didn't hold much back when it came to what he thinks about the decision to have Jimmy Garoppolo on the bench while Trey Lance learns on the job.

"One of the worst decisions I've seen made in a pretty long time," Wright said. "I've got to be honest with you. I'm not a fan at all of that. He got you almost to the promised land. What more do you want from the man? You have Jimmy G on your team. Keep rolling with Jimmy G. If you're not going to roll with Jimmy G, trade him to another team because no quarterback wants to develop with a better quarterback looking over him. Jimmy G needs to get traded. I didn't like that move at all."

Wright continued on to say that if he were on the 49ers, he would want the team to do whatever they needed to do to take advantage of their current Super Bowl window.

"That window is very, very small, and you have to have the best players on the football (field)," Wright said. "If I'm a guy in that locker room, I don't care who you traded up to get. I don't care how many draft picks you gave away. I want the best players on the football field. So I know it's extremely frustrating for those guys. It's just one game -- let's give the young man some time to develop and grow. But you know what you have in number 10, Jimmy Garoppolo. So it's a very frustrating situation and I'm sure those guys want to get things figured out as quickly as possible."

On a more positive note, Wright praised 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, saying, "Shanahan is the absolute best when it comes to calling plays."

Hear Wright's comments on Garoppolo and Lance below:

Blessed to be a 49er

Also joining 95.7 The Game on Thursday was second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga, who stood out against the Bears with 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception. Hufanga had the type of showing that might have made fans wonder how he slipped to Round 5 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

"I don't see it as me slipping too far," Hufanga told 95.7. "I think it's just me blessed to be drafted where I was. I think the Niners took a chance on me. i'm just excited just to be here. You have a chip on your shoulder as every player in this league does, and they just want to go in there and prove what you can do, be smart, and be vocal. I think my job is just to put other guys in positions to make plays. If I can limit the distractions for them and let them play free, communicate, even if it's just little adjustments and checks during the game, that's who I can be as a team player. So as a fifth-round safety, I don't see it as me slipping. I just see it as blessed to be where I was at."
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