What makes LB Ahmad Brooks a special part of your defense?
“Well, I think Ahmad’s a unique combination of size and speed. Usually you don’t have guys that are that big, 265-270 pounds that are that athletic. That’s one of the first things that struck us when we got here is watching Ahmad run around. If you know anything about his history, I know [special teams coordinator] coach [Derius] Swinton II from way back in the days knows that Ahmad was a kick returner when he was in high school and was a really, really good running back in high school. So, you see that athleticism and there’s not many guys that are 265-270 pounds that run as well as him and I think that’s what really kind of helps us do a lot of different things with him. We can deploy him in a lot of different ways because of his athleticism.”
You mentioned last week that DL Glenn Dorsey would play unless he had a setback, did he have a–?
“Yeah, I don’t think he had a setback. It wouldn’t be the word I would use. I just think they all thought that Glenn, [defensive line] coach [Jerry Azzinaro] Azz and the trainers just thought an extra week would be better for him. So, we’re hoping we get him out here this week. He’ll be practicing today.”
Has he been participating in team drills?
“Yeah, he has been participating in team drills. Not every one. He’s kind of on a pitch count, so to speak, just because he’s coming off of the injury. So, we’re hopeful that we’ll have him this week.”
Is DL Arik Armstead’s shoulder something he just might have to deal with all year?
“Well, he’s got to play with it. I mean, yeah, I don’t think it’s an issue where it’s affecting him. I don’t think it, I guess I don’t understand, he has to deal with it or–?”
Well, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said yesterday he’s a guy you’d like to see play every snap because he’s that good, but he’s not at the point where–?
“Yeah, because he’s coming off an injury. We hope we continue to ramp him up. You can’t take a guy coming off an injury and then throw him in for 70 plays when he’s never done anything up until that. So, we hope we lead up to it. We’ve got to kind of, same thing with him, we’re building him up. You hope eventually he gets to the point where we feel real confident that he’s got enough snaps. He just doesn’t have enough base work in for us to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to go play you for 70 snaps in a game on Monday night and then come back on a short week and be ready to play in the second week.’ We kind of knew going into it that we were going to have to ramp him up in terms of where he was. So, I think maybe that’s what Jimmy was alluding to.”
I may have misinterpreted coach O’Neil.
“I’ve done it before. So, we can start a misinterpretation of coach O’Neil club.”
How do you divvy up the practice snaps for the quarterbacks? Is QB Christian Ponder the only person doing the scout team stuff or will QB Colin Kaepernick mix in?
“Depends on kind of some of the things we’re doing. But, right now it’s been that because [quarterbacks coach] Ryan [Day] has taken the two quarterbacks and is doing some individual drills with those guys at that time. Right now, I think Kap’s getting, I think we get 12 reps in a period. I think [QB] Blaine [Gabbert] is getting nine and Kap is getting three, so kind of a distribution from that standpoint. Christian has really spent a lot of time in the last two weeks being [Los Angeles Rams QB] Case Keenum and then being [Carolina Panthers QB] Cam [Newton] because it’s kind of unique. So, Christian’s spent a lot of time watching the other team’s film so he can really simulate kind of what they’re doing. Then when the defense is up, Kap and Blaine are with coach Day. As we get going that may change, but that’s just kind of what the plan was this week.”
With Kap, are there opportunities to say, ‘This team runs this play that we also run, so why don’t you give us a good look?’
“Yeah, there are. But, this is more of a quarterback counter, quarterback power operation, a lot of guys in the box. I don’t see a lot of similarities between what we do offensively and what Carolina does offensively.”
What did you learn about your defense Monday night?
“Just how well they played together as a group I think was the most impressive thing. There wasn’t a lot of, any communication issues and I think that’s what usually when you get into that first game, all of a sudden there’s a bust. One side was playing the coverage one way, the other side was playing a different coverage or the rotation was down to the same side that we were dropping to so we were short on the other side in the flats. I was just impressed with how well they played and how everybody was on the same page and everybody really understood what we were trying to get accomplished and it obviously showed in how they defended the Rams.”
S Eric Reid was saying yesterday how much he’s been wanting to be a guy who moves around and does a bunch of different things. When you got here, what is it about his skillset that he thinks translates to being able to move around?
“Well, he’s 6-2, he’s 220 pounds and he can run. So, he matches up with tight ends. He also can play deep middle field. Sometimes you have safeties, they’re down in the box, you don’t really want them in coverage but they are great, physical run defenders. Other guys are great range guys, but maybe aren’t big enough to have them down in the box, so you keep them deep all the time. I think Eric has the skillset that you ideally want in a safety that he can do it all. He can cover slot receivers. He can cover tight ends. He’s big enough to play in the box and physical enough to play in the box. But, he also has the range and the vision to play deep. So, we’re just really trying to take advantage of his skillset.”
Is there a mental capacity you have to have to be able to do that too? I’m sure there’s a lot of guys that are athletic enough–?
“That’s a great question. Certainly. To be able to play multiple positions, [San Francisco Chronicle reporter] Eric [Branch] is really jealous that I never said, ‘That’s a really good question to him.’”
Keep reaching for that star man.
“There you go. Be positive with him. Keep him going. There is, and there’s part of that is their ability to handle it and really since the beginning we started working with Eric, you could tell he’s really sharp. And for some guys it’s they need to focus and play one position before we can expand them. But, you kind of knew after just a couple days here that he had that versatility to be able to play in multiple spots for you and that really has helped us.”
Is there ever concern for you that maybe Jim has too many guys doing so many different things that with all the personnel you guys use with Ahmad, Eric playing different spots that there’s more of a possibility that guys won’t be on the same page?
“Yeah. I mean, that’s the age-old dilemma that every coach deals with is how much is too much? And then, how much is not enough? So, where other teams get tendencies on you and say, ‘Hey, they’re always doing this or they never do this.’ But, you can say, ‘Alright, well, we’re not going to let anybody get any tendencies on us because we’re going to do a million different things.’ But, when you do a million different things, your guys aren’t really good at anything. So, that’s the fine line that I think everybody, whether it’s an offensive coach or defensive coach or a special team coach is, how much is too much and then how much is not enough? So, you’re always trying to balance that and then obviously you’ve got to self-scout yourself after that week, in terms of how you did. You know, when a player makes a mistake, was it a physical mistake or was it a mental mistake? When you start to have a lot more mental mistakes, then maybe we’ve given them too much and that’s on us, we need to cut back. If it’s a physical mistake, you know, we just got outmatched or that player on that play was better than our player on that play. It wasn’t that the player didn’t know who he had or didn’t know what his responsibility was. So, you’ve got to kind of look at it from that standpoint. Was it a mental mistake? Was it a physical mistake? Sometimes the physical mistakes then get drilled down to their technique mistakes. So, you had a chance to win on this play, but your technique was flawed. So, then you go back as a coach and look at how much time are we spending on technique or are we spending all of our time in practice just on scheme? So, that’s kind of the tightrope that we all walk in terms of evaluating what are we doing. Are we doing enough, are we doing too much and then how do we simulate what we’re doing in drills to make sure that those guys have the proper skillset to execute what we’re calling.”
Talking about Eric Reid and your analysis on him covering tight ends. You guys are going against a very good one in Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen, who really is Cam Newton’s security blanket. How do you guys plan on attacking his skillset and knowing full well that that’s Cam Newton’s number one target?
“Well, I think in any of those situations, there just can’t be one way to do it and just say, ‘Hey, Eric has him,’ because Cam’s too good and Olsen’s too good. They know how to attack different things and kind of what you’re doing. So, we’ll have to present them with multiple looks in terms of how we’re doing it and we’re also going to have to have more than one guy know where the tight end is because he is the focal point of what they’re doing, especially in the passing game and he is such a difficult guy to cover. So, there’s going to be multiple looks that he’ll see and that Cam will see, and then multiple guys that have to really contribute to defending the tight end in this game.”
How do you teach defenders to avoid blows to the head? Do you have to be more vigilant this week based on what happened to Newton the first week in terms of officials being maybe more ready to throw a flag?
“No. I think we know when the quarterback is in the pocket that there’s kind of a strike zone on where you’ve got to hit. It’s got to be below the shoulders and above the waist. And we work on that. It doesn’t matter if it’s Cam or if it’s Case Keenum or whoever it is because those penalties hurt you. That’s not the way the game is played. So, you’re not more vigilant one week and then say, ‘Hey this week, it doesn’t matter. Let’s go just tee off on him and if you get the penalty, you get the penalty.’ There’s a certain way to attack a quarterback that’s in the pocket and we’re always going to work on those fundamentals in terms of defending somebody.”
Is there a challenge that west coast teams have going east with the 10-am pacific time start that maybe east coast teams coming west don’t have?
“Yeah. I think, you’re just, you’re playing earlier. When an east coast team comes west, they’re not playing at 10-o’clock on their body clock. But, it is what it is. You can complain about it, but it’s not going to change. I think you have to embrace it. We’re an early morning practice team. So, we’re out on the field, we’re working. It’s right about kick time right now. So, our guys are hopefully in a rhythm to get used to playing in that situation. But, it is what it is.”
Are you looking to see more from the passing offense, progress from Week 1?
“I mean, you’re looking for progress in everything. There’s not anything on anything where we’re like, ‘Hey, we’re there. Let’s hold serve and just do what we did last week.’ So, we’re looking to improve in the running game. We’re looking to improve in the passing game. We’re looking to improve in everything. So, I don’t look at it specifically one way or the other. There were some real positives. We didn’t give up any sacks. We didn’t throw any interceptions. There’s some positives that you have to build on there, but there were also some other plays that we felt like we could have made that we didn’t make. But, that’s going to be our thought process every week in terms of where we are.”
Along the same lines, you were talking about Eric Reid’s versatility. DB Jimmie Ward is a guy playing multiple positions and now CB Chris Davis is back at practice. How do you approach that slot position going forward given what you saw from Jimmie in Week 1?
“Well, Jimmie’s obviously comfortable playing in there because he’s played in there in the past and then having Chris, we’ll see how today’s training and Friday’s training and Saturday’s training go to see what his availability is on Sunday. But, the more players we have back, so that we have our full arsenal going into a game, I think the more versatile we can be. And we can also distribute snaps where we don’t have to play a guy, you know, I think we had 61 snaps on defense. A couple of those guys, Jimmie played 61 snaps on defense. If you’ve got some more guys back with [CB Keith] Reaser and Davis if they’re available for us on Sunday, then we can start to distribute those reps a little bit more and keep our team a little bit fresher. You don’t know what the temperature is going to be like when you’re going down to Carolina. Is it hot? Is it humid? You know, do we have to play a little bit more so if we’ve got nine DB’ up, you want to be able to get nine DBs involved in the game.”
Are you confident you understand the targeting rule now? We seem to have these situations where there’s a play and there’s no call, but then the guy’s fined later. Sometimes there is a call and then there’s no fine.
“Yeah. I understand the rule. I’m confident I understand it.”
“But, I’m not reffing.”
There’s no challenge in coaching that way then?
“No. We know we can’t hit a quarterback above the shoulders and we can’t hit him below the waist. I mean, that’s the rule. I think our players understand it and everybody understands it. But, a lot to the official’s defense. There’s a lot of things that happen bang-bang that, you know, when you slow it down in super HD slow Mo, you can say, ‘Hey, this is what happened.’ But, a lot of times you’d be, ‘Oh my god, that was targeting,’ and then you slow it down and he didn’t hit him in the head, he actually hit him below the shoulder. So, I think we all benefit from technology and we can be the best second-guessers in the world, but when it happens bang-bang, there’s times I’m out there and I see a play and I just go, ‘Oh my god, that was targeting,’ and then you look up on the big board and go, ‘No, he actually hit him below the shoulders.”
Is that reviewable?
Should it be?
“I have no idea. I’m not involved in any of that. Let the refs handle refs. I’ve got enough time coaching.”