On Mason Crosby and the FG operation:
Talking to those guys, they were able to train consistently through in the spring and build through the summer to where they’re peaking now. It’s been a consistent build up for him through the summer. He’s a great vet, knows what he needs to do, and he’s got himself ready to go. He’s picked up where he left off.
On how tackling will be early in the season:
It could be sloppy at times. We’re trying to do as many things as we can in drills and fit up on guys. We’re always talking about tackling and angles and keeping your shoulders square and coming to balance, those finer points. You can’t afford to get guys hurt … we’re trying to modify it as best we can do. You just never know. As coaches it’s one of those things that’s going to keep us up at night. We don’t have the games to see things live. There could be some sloppy tackling early on, some sloppy fundamentals early on. Hopefully not.
On having so many special teamers back from last year:
I think each year it’s an open competition. Ultimately we want to play the best players at each position and have them trained and ready to go. We know each other’s personalities, so you build the chemistry in the room. We’re building pride in special teams here, and trying to develop that leadership. Our job is to get everybody ready and prepare for everything and be prepared for as many scenarios as we can.
On reducing penalties last year:
It’s our goal to be penalty free but still play fast and physical. We try to establish that every year and build on that as a base. Our job is to play with penalty-free aggression.
On where the units ranked:
We weren’t good enough last year, we’ve established a better culture here. We were doing some good things at the end of last season, and guys are hungry. No matter what metric you look at we’re trying to be the best we can be and help this team win, that’s the bottom line.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine
On having most of defense back and expectations for them going into Year 3 in the system:
We return a lot of guys. Where it’s most encouraging, you look at it first, is on the back end, having both starting corners back, the two safeties who were in Year 1 of the system who are now much more comfortable. I think our guys did a great job in the spring of kind of buying into what we were doing. We got a lot accomplished in the virtual meetings. I think Jerry Gray, Ryan Downard, Christian Parker, have just been doing such a great job of getting those guys prepared. That’s a good group. They communicate well. The communication’s much better. Up front, we’re bringing the two edges back, Kenny Clark, well deserved contract, I think he’s one of the elite nose guards in the National Football League. We have the pieces up front too. We’re going to be a confident group. There’s going to be high expectations. We were able to get to within a game of the Super Bowl. In this crazy year, you’ve got to feel like, you know what, if we play good defense, why not us? We’re going to go out and play the games. It’ll be unique circumstances, but hey they’re keeping score, we want to be the best and feel like we can certainly get to that level.
On balancing how much defensive linemen play gaps vs. rushing:
I think you have to be a little bit of both. I think if you play it one way, teams can draw a bead on you pretty quick. Some of our stuff, we’re going to anchor in and play gaps, and keep the linebackers clean. Other times, I think you gotta be the aggressor. You gotta put guys on the move, you want to penetrate. I think you have to have a couple different ways to do it. Offensive coordinators are too good. If you do it one way, you’ll get dialed in on really quick. Every offseason, we look at it and make sure the scheme is up to date. At the beginning of camp here, all the changes we talked through we’ve been able to get a look at implementing here in training camp.
On Christian Kirksey and battle for No. 2 ILB spot:
Kirko has been great. He stepped in here, leadership role right away. He’s a good communicator on the field, in the meeting room. He’s a take-charge kind of guy. He’s the new guy but he’s the one who has to do a lot of the communication. It’s important to him and he’s really been putting in the time to get that right. He’s what we expected when we signed him. As far as the other spot, there’s open competition there. You have Oren Burks, Ty Summers, Kamal Martin. All those guys have their own particular skill sets. Unfortunately, Curtis Bolton isn’t about to be out there yet coming off the injury.
All those guys are solid players. Jonathan Garvin is a guy who had good college tape. We were pleased we were able to get him when we did in the draft. Tim Williams brings a skill set we were exposed to last year. Randy Ramsey, the same way. That’s a spot where there’s really good competition.
On Raven Greene coming back from injury:
It was tough. He’s a versatile player who was able to do some good things for us in ’18. It’s unfortunate we lost him in the second game. He was going to be a big part of what we were doing. His versatility and explosiveness was something we missed. We’re looking forward to taking advantage of it this year. He looks good. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s been able to pick stuff up very quickly. We’re expecting big things of Raven this year.
Preston’s going to get his regular workload but we’re hopeful at the end of last year we felt we wanted to take a little bit off both of those guys. Losing a quality player like Kyler Fackrell, this is a great opportunity for guys we’ve already talked about. Obviously, Rashan Gary is going to have a big role in what we’re doing. You want to find that sweet spot with repetitions. How many reps do our guys need to make sure they’re ready to go?
Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray
When I watched them on film and actually went against them a couple years, they’re good young corners, athletic, they understand what they’re doing. Since we’ve been here, getting a chance to really talk to them, see what their thought process is, we get a lot of feedback back and forth. Those guys, they are talented, they’re good enough to be really good, and hopefully this will be a breakout year for them.
On Josh Jackson’s start to camp:
One of the things with Josh is we talked a little bit about not to overly muscle guys on the football field. You have to have a little finesse in your game, and that’s one of the things we’re working on right now. Don’t try to stop every guy at the line of scrimmage, just cover him, and he’s understanding that.
The eyes are the key to what you’re doing. You have to have your eyes in the right place. The young guys coming from college get in trouble because they look at the quarterback too long. Once the season starts, you don’t want to have to break a bad habit.
People don’t understand how hard that is to be a rookie and come in and start on a 13- or 14-win team. That’s almost unheard of. When you see that guy take that step, now he’s ready for another step. You almost have to hold him back a little bit so he doesn’t try to make every play. You teach him to say this is my play to make, I can’t make someone else’s play, because if they have the ability to do it they’ll try.
On young players maturing:
If you just line up, you have a 50 percent chance of winning that play. I’m trying to get us to have a 70-80 percent chance of winning the play. You have to study, watch the film, learn the splits. This game is not about athletic ability alone. Great players understand that. It’s drudgery for football players who are just athletic, because they don’t want to put the time in, but you have to put the time in on this level.
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery
On Kenny Clark’s extension:
I’m extremely happy for him. There’s not a more deserving kid. He works extremely hard when he’s here. When he’s not here, he comes back in shape. He’s an unbelievable kid. I was definitely excited for him and his family. When you talk about nose tackle, he’s the best two-way nose tackle in the game. Most nose tackles, you don’t think of guys who can get after the quarterback. We’ve put a lot of time into that part of his game. He takes on a lot of double teams in the run and then win 1-on-1 on third down.
On Kingsley Keke’s upside:
Year 2, been in the system, it’s time to put up or shut up. He’s got to come and dive in, and buy into what we’re doing, and continue to grow as a player. Fundamentally, that’s a big part of what we do and playing D-line is not easy. I see him taking those steps. It’s still early but I look forward to him helping us this year.
Dean’s a guy who does a lot of dirty work. He takes a lot of double teams on and a lot of things he does goes unnoticed, and allows others to make plays. He’s got to be impactful on first and second down in play-action and drop-back passes.
All we can do is continue to develop in our fundamentals. That’s where it starts at. As far as when the plays come to us, we have to make them. We definitely have to do everything in our power to be productive and competitive up front. We’ll continue to work to be the best group in the league.
Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith
On Rashan Gary’s offseason and his workout videos:
I saw a couple of them. I’m not on the social media deal. He sent me a couple of them. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen. He’s in unbelievable shape. He loves football. We have to make sure we’re in better shape than everybody out there. He’s in ridiculous shape, but that’s who he is.
I don’t have a what if with him, because he loves it. I can’t be more proud of somebody than him. He’s going to be a damn good player.
On the challenge of helping the Smiths repeat what they did:
It’s nice as a coach when players like that have success. Any major accomplishment in life … is always achieved by detailed planning, preparation, and old-school hard work. That’s who we are. When those guys get success like that, it shows that it pays off, and it helps the young guys in the room to see these guys don’t mess around. You love that challenge as a coach.
On other teams copying San Francisco to take advantage of aggressiveness on the edge:
As a coach in the offseason, you see what people were trying to do. We’ve seen it, we’ve got plans, we’re all good coaches here and we’ve got a plan as well. That’s the game of football. It’s chess. You can’t block all of us. We’ve already talked about those things. The game changes every year.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti
Oren has had two weird training camps being injured, he’s healthy right now and running around out there. Training camp, that’s what this is all about. He’s in his third year in the system and we’re working through the missed time he had the last two years.
Kamal, it’s just such a weird thing. We haven’t been able to work with him until the last two weeks. He gets better and better every day. Kamal is a guy that really worked at it with all the Zoom stuff that we did. When he came in here, he was mentally really in a good place, especially for a rookie that never had been around us. He had to take it from a computer screen to the field and he did a nice job with that.
On Christian Kirksey and his familiarity with the system:
He and Pet being together definitely helps understanding the guy, the person, all those kind of things. Christian and I were laughing about the systems we’ve been in. Being familiar, it’s almost like déjà vu. He remembers what it is after we say it. Overall, he works at the new language and learning the stuff the way we want to do it.