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John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Curtis Modkins previews season opener against Rams

Sep 7, 2016 at 1:08 PM--

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Opening comments:

"Good morning. It's amazing how fast this thing gets here, right? We're on the eve of, I guess the season is starting tomorrow. So, it's amazing how fast this thing starts and gets here, but I know our guys are eager to prepare today for the challenge we face in Carolina [Los Angeles] on Sunday [Monday] and it'll be a formidable one. Those guys we face in our opener, it's going to be a formidable task. These guys are really good. LA is very talented up front. I think the strength of their team probably starts with their front and what they do with their front. So, they've got some guys that we've got to make sure we handle and our guys are ready for the challenge and they're ready to prepare today and we'll see where it goes. But, we're excited about the opener. I'll open it up for questions."

Curtis Modkins Previews MNF Matchup with Rams 

Who's going to open this season as your swing tackle?

"Our swing tackle, you know, I prefer to leave specifics of who's doing what to [head coach] Chip [Kelly]. I don't see any advantage to kind of revealing who's going to do what and who's going to play what positions and all that right now. But, we feel good about where we are with that position though."

There's been a lot of talk about how the offensive line is much improved from last year. It seems like whether that's accurate or not might be evident in Week 1 just given what you said about the Rams front and what they can do--?

"You know, I've been pleased with where our offensive line is. I think the thing that we've tried to do that [offensive line coach Pat Flaherty] Flats has done is there have been a number of guys that have mixed and matched positions. So, you know, we feel we have some variety, the question he just asked about the swing tackle, we have a number of guys that we feel like can do a variety of different things for us. We'll see where that goes, but I feel good about the development. I think our offensive line is going to perform well and we'll need to do that come Sunday [Monday] against LA."

How important is WR Jeremy Kerley to this offense?

"I think Jeremy's very important. We lost [WR] Bruce [Ellington] and we kind of replaced him with a guy that has similar traits. I think Jeremy's going to be very productive for us. I'm happy he's here."

We haven't had a chance to talk to you since Chip named QB Blaine Gabbert the starter. What did you like about what you saw form Blaine all offseason? How important is it to have him--?

"Well, Blaine's been consistent. He's been consistent since the day we got here. Just kind of what he's done since day one makes you think and makes you very excited about what he can do and we look forward to him showing that."

Going back to Kerley, is he up to speed? Can he possibly be up to speed at this point after coming in so late?

"Yeah. He's working hard. Those guys, [wide receivers] coach [Bob] Bicknell, he's doing a good job of getting some of our newer guys ready and Kerley himself has done a good job of preparing. He's a professional, he studies and I've been very impressed with where he is from a mental standpoint of what we do. And then, also, he went to TCU. So, I kind of know his mental capability because he's a TCU guy, right?"

So, he's got to be pretty sharp?

"Yeah, so he's got to be pretty sharp, right?"

You had Ellington and former 49ers WR DeAndrew White there throughout the training camp and the offseason. Kerley's been playing it. Has anybody else been getting snaps there at that slot position? What would happen if Kerley were to get hurt?

"Well, when you format things, you can put different guys in different positions. So, if something were to happen with him, we've got a number of guys. I mean, we've got, you know, two tight ends. We can put a tight end in the slot. We can formulate it where an outside receiver's in the slot. I mean, that's not that big of an issue. We'll survive if something were to happen. Of course we don't anticipate that, but we'll make the necessary adjustments if that were to ever happen."

How do you see WR Rod Streater fitting in as well? Obviously, you guys swung a trade for him right before the deadline. How do you see him fitting into your offense?

"Well, I like what Rod brings. One, he has some length. He can run. He's had some production in this league and you know, when we lost [WR] Eric [Rogers], we felt like Eric would kind of give us some of that, you know, downfield, a bigger guy that can move and I think when losing Eric, I think Streater kind of replaces that. So, you know, we're looking forward to, you know, he's getting up to speed himself and he's doing a good job of getting up to speed just like Jeremy has."

So, he might line up at split-end then?

"We'll see. Potentially. I'm not into giving any secrets away on the eve of our first game, but you know, we'll line him up wherever we feel that's conducive for us to move the football."

Do you anticipate having five guys up on game day?

"I think that's kind of general for this league. But, we'll have to see how the week goes and see who's ready and who can get caught up and all that. But, you know, that's kind of the general number, but I don't want to be tied to that and we'll make that decision as we go."

Is WR Aaron Burbridge ready to play NFL football?

"We'll see. We'll see. We still have a week of preparation. Today's our first real day on the field and it's an evolving process. We're in the process of today preparing and we'll see how these guys prepare and see who we think gives us the best chance on game day."

You've seen him for four or five weeks.


Has he not been ready up to this point? Why do you have to see this week in practice?

"Yeah. He made our 53. So, obviously we think he's a good player. Now, we're into game planning. We're into, you know, changing things up and we're into our game plan. So, we'll have to see how all of them digest it. We'll make those decisions at the end of the week. Chip will decide and we'll go from there."

When you watched film of QB Colin Kaepernick against the Chargers, what was your initial reaction? Did you guys grade it out? What did you think?

"I think Kap did a good job. I think Kap did some good things. You always would like to have a couple back, but I think Kap did a good job in that last game."

Is there anything to take moving forward into the season from that?

"Yeah. I mean, Kap has a history of being really good in this league and doing some good things. You know, as he continues to get strength and stronger, you know, I think in this league you need more than one good quarterback and we're very fortunate that we do have him and Blaine. So, you know, we'll see where that goes, but I thought Kap did a good job."

Has the coaching staff identified the offense's best personnel grouping on let's say, first-and-10 yet or no?

"I think that varies. That depends on who we're facing, and all those things are week-to-week. We're going to do what we do to a certain extent, but all that depends on week-to-week and how it develops."

What makes Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald so good along that defensive line for the Rams?

"How much time do we have? He's explosive. He's tough. He's physical. He's as good a pass rusher as he is a run defender. And so, he causes havoc on both sides whether it's the run game or the pass game. He's just a really, really good football player who has a really, really high motor and he's kind of mean too. So, Aaron's a fantastic football player and he's going to present a challenge that we'll have to meet."

How much do they move him around?

"How much do they move him around? Not a ton. Not a ton. It's not a big secret as to where he's going to line up. That's not necessarily the issue. It hasn't been an issue since he's been in the league. The issue offensively is just blocking him. But, no, they don't really hide him a lot. They could, but we feel like we have an idea of where he's at."

With a guy like that who's on the interior as opposed to on the edge, how much more difficult is it to get extra bodies to block him?

"Well, it's difficult. He's used to having extra bodies on him and that hasn't been an issue with a three-technique because they normally always have bodies around them. An end might only have to have one guy, but the issue hasn't been having enough bodies to block him. So, I don't see that as any kind of issue about how many guys we can get on him. We know where he's going to be at. He presents an issue, but they have other talented players that also present an issue. So, it's going to be a challenge for us and we look forward to meeting it."

What's RB Carlos Hyde's status as he begins this practice week?

"You know, we'll see. [Vice president of football operations Jeff Ferguson] Ferg will let us know when we get out where he is. So, I don't know right now where he's at. I know he was in the protocol. I don't anticipate anything crazy happening, but we'll see. We'll leave that up to Ferg."

OL Anthony Davis talked about the adjustment to guard and one of the biggest things is the speed that things come at him. How has he adjusted to that speed in your mind?

"Anthony's adjusted fine. It's the difference in playing tackle and guard. At tackle, you have somebody on one side of you. On guard, you have somebody on both sides of you and things happen a little bit faster. The twist game is different from the tackle and the guard. So, there are differences, but I think he's adjusting fine and I think he'll continue to adjust the more and more he gets reps at it."

Streater spent a year with Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave who had been in Philly with Chip. Bill brought a little bit of what Chip does up to Oakland. So, is there any carryover at all as far as Streater knowing this offense?

"There probably is. I hadn't asked him that specifically, but there probably is. You know, at the end of the day, football is football and we feel like he's a talented football player and he's show the ability to pick up what we do. So, I don't know how much that helps you, but we've been pleased with him, where he's at from a mental standpoint."

I know it looks as though TE Vance McDonald and TE Garrett Celek are listed as the two top tight ends, but not having former 49ers FB Bruce Miller, how does that affect the offense and what kind of role did you expect from him to hold this season?

"Yeah, Vance and Celek are our two top tight ends and I don't think not having Bruce will affect that at all whatsoever. I think their roles will change from week to week based on who we're playing, what looks we get defensively, all that stuff is fluid and it changes from week to week."

Obviously T Trent Brown has gotten a lot of very significant praise through training camp and this summer. When you first saw him, whether on film or whatever, did you say, 'Wow, that can be a special player,' or was it more of a gradual process for you to begin to appreciate some of his abilities?

"You know, I think Trent's ability is recognizable by football people. I first saw Trent actually last year when San Francisco played us in Detroit. So, you don't have to have a doctorate in football to know he has ability. He does have ability and we're just looking forward to him continuing to grow and continuing to get better and help us win games."

Did you or any of the coaches watch Hard Knocks to get a little added advantage or more insight on what the Rams are doing?

"No. I hadn't had a chance to watch that. No."

* Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers

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