Kyle Shanahan Analyzes the Growth of Young 49ers Players

Shanahan discussed the recent performances of Dante Pettis, Elijah Lee and other players and previewed Week 17 vs Rams.

Opening comments:

“Practice today, [WR Marquise] Goodwin and [T Joe] Staley will both be out. Goodwin with his calf, Staley with the usual Wednesday vet day. Limited, [TE Garrett] Celek, still in the protocol. [C/G Weston] Richburg, his knee. [CB] K’Waun [Williams], knee. Again, out this week will be [RB Matt] Breida and [WR Dante] Pettis.”

So, Goodwin, it’s the calf he had been dealing with and not the Achilles?

“No, a calf contusion, Achilles. It’s all connected.”

The same?

“Yeah. A trickle-down effect.”

You guys have brought WR Steven Dunbar Jr. up. What have you seen from him on the field all season?

“He’s just, being on the practice squad all year, he’s been up with the gameplan every single week. He knows all the spots from a mental standpoint. We could have plugged him in on a Saturday and he would’ve always known the gameplan. So, just from that standpoint where it starts with, and his skillset. He’s gotten better throughout the year. He’s got real good hands, runs hard. He’s a big guy. Excited for him to get an opportunity.”

Is he more of a Z?

“Yeah. We use him at the Z and slot, an inside player.”

Can you, for next year, as far as Pettis is concerned, envision him being the punt returner?

“I know he has the ability to be. That depends on what he’s doing offensively and if we think he’s definitely the best guy. If it’s tied with someone, if he had a huge load on offense, I’d give the tie to someone else. It just depends what his workload is and if he’s the best guy on our team.”

Do you like him at X or do you want to wait and see what else you add in the offseason?

“That’s the thing that I think I like the most about Pettis is you don’t have to pencil him in at one position. He’s got the ability to do all three. Whatever the rest of our roster looked like, where he got to and how, just the way you can put the best three guys out there together. Whether it’s three guys together, usually on third down, whether there’s two guys on first and second down.”

Goodwin finished last season so strong. But, he wasn’t clearly able to replicate that this season. How do you assess his season this season?

“I think it’s just been very inconsistent, especially with his health. He hasn’t missed a ton of games. But, he’s definitely missed some. When he has been able to go, he hasn’t been 100-percent throughout those games. It’s tough to be consistent when you’re not healthy and we’re dealing with that this week, too. A lot of that you can’t control. So, hopefully, he’ll be more fortunate with that stuff next year.”

Would you like to have a situation where he doesn’t have to play 65 snaps a game?

“Yes, definitely.”

Is he more effective as far as just--?

“Yes. I think everyone is, first of all. But, that definitely would help him more to not have to be out there as much.”

What have you gotten from Weston Richburg this season?

“We’ve gotten very good center play. I know he started off this year at an extreme high level. I thought he was doing as well in the run game and stuff at the beginning of the year as anyone I’ve had. Had a number of setbacks with his knee injury that he’s battled through. I think he only missed one game because of it, which is a credit to him because it’s been tough for him to practice for a lot of this time. I think he’s starting to get healthier, which he’s finishing stronger than the little stretch he had to the beginning. I think it’ll help him a lot more being a year in our offense, too, just coming back next year. Hopefully, with the help of him, find out a way to keep him healthier throughout the year.”

Whether you pay attention to this or not, the analytics group doesn’t have him rated very highly. Is that just because you ask so much of your centers and it’s difficult to tell exactly what his assignment is on any given play?

“I’m not sure because I don’t really know how they grade it. So, I couldn’t tell you that. But, I know that I’m happy with him. Doesn’t mean that there’s not room to grow. I think he could play better, too, especially the way he started out the year. We’ve got to find out a way to make that last throughout the whole year. But no, I think we’ve got a very good center who is only going to get better.”

Is he going to need surgery in the offseason?

“I’m not sure. I don’t believe so. But, I’m not sure.”

What kind of season has OL Laken Tomlinson had this year at left guard?

“I think very good. Laken, similar to what I was saying I hope happens with Richburg. But, it’s happened with Laken and Staley. Just them playing throughout all last year, they got better as the year went. I think they both came back better this year just having a year in the system. Both have been able to stay healthy throughout the year and I think it’s made both of them go in the right direction.”

LB Elijah Lee led your defense in tackles last game. What does he do well?

“He’s done his job well. He’s gone in and filled that role very well. He’s been consistent. Hasn’t given up too many big plays. He hasn’t busted very much. He’s done his job. When he’s been there, he’s made the tackle and gotten guys down.”

What do you see from the Rams now versus when you played them the first time in the season?

“Defensively, they’ve added [Los Angeles Rams LB Dante] Fowler so that’s different. [Los Angeles Rams CB] Aqib’s [Talib] back. Offensively, they’ve lost [Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper] Kupp and I expect them to have [Los Angeles Rams RB Todd] Gurley [II] this week, we’ll see. They’re a good team who’s been playing throughout the year. They had a couple of games where they hit a little bit of a lull going against a couple of really good defenses. They bounced back last week, but it’s just like the beginning of the year. You can tell why they’re one of the better teams in the league, why their record is what it is. All three phases, I don’t think they’re there numbers-wise in all three phases, but they have the ability in all three phases to play like a top team.”

What was your impression of Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff when he was at Cal and what’s your impression of him now?

“I didn’t watch too much of him at Cal. I watched two games on him and two games on [Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson] Wentz just because I was pretty confident that we weren’t drafting a quarterback. I was at Atlanta so I spent my time on other stuff. But, the two games I watched on both of them, I definitely saw why they were going to be one and two coming out. Then I watched him hard last year and he was very good last year. I watched him the year before last year and it wasn’t just him, but their whole offense struggled, including Gurley and things like that where Gurley wasn’t like that the year before that, his rookie year. They all played at a very high level last year and just getting to watch that tape, you could tell Goff was a special quarterback by the end of last season. He started this season out even better than last year. He’s extremely accurate, reminds me a lot of [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt Schaub, a guy I used to have. He’s very good in the pocket and if you give that guy time to throw, he can pick you apart because he’s as accurate as it gets.”

How interested or uninterested were you in Fowler at the trade deadline?

“We’re always interested in adding pass rushers and he’s a good pass rusher to add. It was just a tough situation for us because you knew he was on the final year of his contract so you know you’re only making a trade for a guy who you can only guarantee half the year. So, you’ll see how that goes, but it was just a little risky for the situation we were in.”

What are other areas QB Nick Mullens needs to improve on?

“He’s played very well and gotten better, to me, each game he’s played. It’s just about taking it to another level. How much better can you get? How much more consistent can you get? How many more impressive plays can you make without getting sacks and turnovers. The more you try to make big plays, that can happen, but also the higher probability of bad plays picks up. So, he has started to make more and more plays the more he’s played and hopefully the more opportunities he gets he’ll get even better at that.”

Do you think he could add some velocity to his throw if he worked with a guy like motion performance expert Tom House in the offseason?

“Did Tom ask you to ask that question?”

No.

“The more you work and the more you work deliberately the right way, you get better. So, of course.”

Have you had any dealings with Tom House?

“Yeah, he’s a good dude. I recommend him. He’s awesome. Yeah, I’ve been down there and spent some time with him before. [Atlanta Falcons QB] Matt Ryan spoke highly of him. So again, hopefully we all get bonuses from this.”

After watching the tape, how do you think T Mike McGlinchey held up on Sunday?

“I didn’t think it was one of his better games. I think they got him a few times on the pass rushes, definitely. It was a huge challenge for him, but he has done better. But, by no means was he the reason that we lost or anything. A lot of guys struggled against that group and he didn’t struggle worse than others. It was a tough game for a lot of us.”

Were you guys expecting Chicago Bears LB Khalil Mack to be used in so many different ways, whether it be chipping TE George Kittle? I assume you expected him to line up on either side, but it just seemed like he did a lot of other stuff in that game.

“Yes, we assumed that you can’t assume anything. They have the scheme to where they can put him anywhere. They have the players to put him anywhere. So, we know based off of analytics, we know based off of our study, we know based off of a lot of stuff, the percentages of where he’s supposed to be. You also know based off of the coordinator you’re going against and his ability that, whatever you have success with, Khalil is probably going to be in a different position the next play. So, that’s something that what makes him a commodity.”

With Dunbar, is that a reward to put money in his pocket or is it you expect him to play on Sunday?

“Unless something crazy happens, expect him to play.”

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