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Chris Foerster talks O-line ahead of 49ers-Chargers preseason finale

Aug 23, 2023 at 1:03 PM--


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San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster spoke with reporters before Wednesday's practice. The team is preparing for its preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

OL Aaron Banks, did he cramp up or have an injury yesterday in camp?

"Cramped up. Yeah, I think he lost, the day before he lost 14 pounds. And that was the day it was kind of like rainy and misty a little bit, whatever we were getting the remnants of the hurricane or something, whatever we were getting up here. Definitely though, yeah, he lost a lot of weight. So it doesn't surprise me. It's really hard to replenish all that weight and then the next day he cramped up mid-practice so wasn't able to. Which for Aaron, man, to make it all the way through camp. We always joke if he'd got drafted someplace where it was hot, I don't know how he'd have made it. The guy definitely sweats a lot."

How has his camp gone? Last year, there was a lot of scrutiny and stuff. It seems like this year it's more settled in.

"Yeah, Aaron's done a really nice job. Played well in the game on Saturday. He gave up a little bit of pressure on one. I think that the quarterback scrambled to his right on. But Aaron has had a really good camp. Aaron, surprisingly, it's hard to say, but he's a little bit better game day player than a practice player. I think some of the sweating, he's in great shape. His weight's been consistent now for gosh, over about a year and a half. The guys in the weight room and the nutrition department has kept him in great shape. But yet, sometimes in practice he does get a little worn down and sometimes in practice it isn't always as clean. But in the games, he's always fresh, ready to go and has had some really good game reps put in there. And so I'm really happy with his performance this camp and in the preseason so far."

How would you assess the third tackle competition right now?

"It's great competition. It really is. I really enjoy it. [OL] Matt Pryor's really come on the last couple weeks since the Raider game. Had a better game this week. Not to be confused with perfect. But practice-wise and stuff, he's been doing better. His conditioning and his weight management and things like that for our system has been getting better all the time. [OL] Jaylon Moore started off camp in the offseason, had a really good off season and a good camp. Then had the bone bruise injury that he sustained during practice, just prior to the week before we went to the Raiders. And then it's kind of lingered a little bit. So, he's been not maybe everything that we've wanted to be up to this point. So, it's a really good competition between he and Matt at this point, for that third tackle spot. And then don't count [OL] Leroy Watson [IV] out. Leroy is a young developing player. He hasn't played a lot of offensive line and he's got a steeper learning curve while he's got some really good talent and ability. He's still a ways away, but he's in the mix as well and competing with those guys, probably more for the fourth. But they're all in the mix doing well."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said the hope was that Jaylon Moore would be a guard at some point and because of injuries and things like that, he's just never had that opportunity. Is that still something that could be in the cards for him?

"What's funny is Jaylen, his body type looks a little bit more like a guard, but the quickness, the twitch and the things that sometimes need to play at guard isn't there as much. So, he is much more of a tackle than a guard. Even though I think that's what everybody in the Draft, we kind of had him targeted in that direction. But my personal opinion has been if a guy can play tackle, let him see if he can play tackle. They're harder to find than guards. And so if he can, he can. And he's done a serviceable job. We still are looking for just a little bit more from Jaylon and keep hoping that he continues to work."

Is Matt still going to have to show that he could line up on the left side? I know we talked about it a couple weeks ago and you said maybe after the Raiders game you would know.

"Yeah, now he's starting to get more comfortable in the system, so now I do think that at some point, I thought it might be before this time, but it's not. But that's still, again, I'm not sure how the roster all shakes down, but if it had to be a right left backup, a little bit like it was last year with [OL Colton] McKivitz and Jaylon. And then I think that it could be that way to start off. Maybe Matt over time gets more comfortable back on the left side. So again, nothing is set in stone at all at this point. It's a very fluid depth chart at this point, except for the starting left tackle."

What's the next step for Watson? What does he need to kind of build?

"Well, you guys have heard me say it before again and again, just how much playing time means. He's so much better this week just having played two preseason games. The Raider game, obviously neither game being good enough, he has to play better, but the point of it is the guy's improving by learning, by getting the experience. He had a little bit of playing time in Atlanta last year in the preseason and then this year with us, he's getting the two games up to this point. So as much time as we can give him, that's what he has to get. And obviously there's only so many game reps. There's so many of these guys, man, back in the day we would've sent them to NFL Europe and they would have had a whole offseason of playing games over there and just had a chance to play a lot of football. And they come back to us even though they're beat up and tired when they would come back to us, they would've played and you kind of knock off, I don't know what, it's not rust, but they get some playing time. Things that some guys didn't have a lot of in college or they're changing positions and things like that. Leroy, they don't have that benefit. Offseason, OTAs aren't the same as they used to be. Training camp is not the same as it used to be. There's just not as many opportunities to get these guys reps to develop them other than practice reps and they're just not quite the same."

Is that common to have players that are better gameday players than practice players in your experience?

"Not really. I mean, Aaron kind of jumped off the screen at us when we got to opening day and he's downfield celebrating in the end zone. He's cleaning the pile off. He's leading screens downfield. We saw the other day he was out in front of [WR] Deebo's [Samuel] screen and it was an almost block, but he was down there hustling his butt off to make a play. And it's not often with offensive lineman that you see that drastic. It's a big difference for Aaron. I mean, he's a good practice player, but it's a grind and I can't explain it other than I think the sweat. I hate saying that. I mean, it sounds weird, but it's something about it. But on gameday, he does actually perform quite a bit better than practice and it's cool to watch."

OL Nick Zakelj got that first opportunity yesterday after Aaron cramped up. Have you been happy with his progress through training camp?

"Same thing as I just mentioned with Leroy and probably Nick even more so because he's been an offensive lineman, even though it was at Fordham. Nothing against Fordham, but it's not the highest competition. And he really has taken advantage of these reps and through the reps of the first couple games. This last game was a big step for him. The energy that he played with, the effort that he played with, the confidence he played with. And so yesterday when he stepped in, it was nice to see him in there and really not miss a beat. He did a nice job and competed well. And it was practice obviously, but I'm really happy with Nick's progress. Again, he could use a whole other preseason to get him ready to go. And he's not going to get that opportunity, but he's going to get some more game reps this week and then if the time comes during the season that he has to contribute, he'll be as ready as he can be at this point."

Kyle wasn't ready to divulge playing time yet yesterday, but he did say after the Broncos game he expected the ones to go at least a little bit against the Chargers. C Jake Brendel said yesterday it was his understanding that the ones were going to play. What do you think they actually get out of say, 10 to 15 snaps in the last preseason game that helps you going into Pittsburgh?

"I mentioned it last week talking about just the most tired I've ever seen players being at the end of that first drive of that first game because that real true strain. They do get some close to live game reps. I mean, they are live game reps. There's no question a preseason game is live. I'll just never forget my first preseason game in the NFL in 1993, it was the Dallas Cowboys and we were in Minnesota. We played the Cowboys, hole in the stadium, the big star in the middle of the field and all that and I thought it was a Super Bowl. I really did. I thought this game meant everything. And you go out and you realize, oh, this is a preseason game and a lot of guys that are on the team aren't going to make the team, winning and losing doesn't matter as much. Then the next regular season game, we played the Raiders in the L.A. Coliseum, [former NFL DL] Howie Long. And I went, wow, there was a huge step up in the level of competition. And then when you get to the playoffs, obviously it steps up again. So, you're pushing them as far as you can push them to get them a couple of game reps so that they feel that strain, that stress that they're going to feel come opening day. And that's really what there is to benefit from it."

How much has OL Spencer Burford improved this offseason?

"A lot. He's taken a ton of work in his body. He's remade himself. He looks like a different guy. When you watch the tapes from a year ago, you see him walking around now, he's just really worked very hard. His nutrition, his diet, he takes seriously what he does. His improvement mentally as far as understanding the offense. Best way I ever described it to him as a guy in Baltimore once said, what's year one? Year one, all I see in the world is what's right in front of me. That second year, man, those blinders start to come off and you start to see a whole lot more of the total game. Not to be confused with being there yet, he's still got a lot of work to do on that, but it's a night and day difference in his physical maturation and then also his mental understanding of the game."

Has McKivitz given you everything you wanted to see from the beginning of training camp to now be ready to step in?

"Knocking on wood. Yes, he has. He's been everything as advertised. He's a very consistent pass blocker. He is consistent in the run game. He brings a level of toughness and physicality to our front and we're very happy with what he has done so far."



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