[Listen] 49ers DC Robert Saleh: "I know our guys are ready for the challenge.”

Audio: 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh Press Conference – September 6, 2018

Where do things stand with LB Malcolm Smith?

Hes going through practice today and everything looks good for game day.

What point during the training camp did you realize you had a keeper in a guy who can make an impact Week 1 in LB Fred Warner?

For us, I think it was the first game that he actually got to go hit somebody. Felt like he had great hand placement. Didnt think physicality would be an issue, but being able to actually go through the game and go through it and actually be able to use all that physicality and bring people down. It pretty much sealed the deal on what we felt like we already knew.

Did you go into the draft process anticipating that he could be a physical guy after not showing it too much in college?

That was the big question on him. No different than it was for [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon]. But, thats where I think [general manager] John [Lynch], [vice president of player personnel] Adam [Peters], [senior personnel executive] Martin Mayhew, [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and our staff did an unbelievable job digging to see, Is it because they are unwilling or because they just dont know any better? Freds circumstance was he was never in position to be able to play physical. So, we had to go dig and find some Senior Bowl tape and all the different examples of where he would and where he wouldnt shy from contact. So for us, the physicality part was never an issue.

Do you expect him to play MIKE?

Yes.

He was saying yesterday that hell do the communication. How easy was it to kind of gain that trust in him to be able to do that in his first NFL game?

Its very easy. I said it before, he was one of, if not the smartest interviews Ive ever had personally at the combine for a linebacker. Hes picked it up well. Hes got great command of it. Hes got a long way to go. I dont want to crown him quite yet, but hes a rookie, hes going to have his peaks and valleys, but we have great confidence in him.

Is it all systems go with CB Richard Sherman, were assuming?

Thats right.

Throughout this last month and on the practice field and the exhibitions, were you paying extra attention to his footwork to see how that Achilles has responded?

You know, I guess you look at it. Youre looking at the footwork to see where he is at and all that stuff, and he looks great. He does. The speed, I know there was a lot of talk about the go-ball in his very first rep and all that stuff, but I havent seen speed deficiency. We havent seen speed deficiency. But, his communication, his instincts, his quickness, all of it looks fantastic. Hes ready to go and were excited to have him.

Does he spend extra time with you? Im sure hes giving a lot of communication with some of the younger guys, just to make sure hes giving them the right answers, does he spend a lot of time talking with you about the scheme?

The cool thing with a vet, and really its just vets in general, I can imagine being on offense, special teams, whatever it is, the great ones do a great job communicating with the coach so everybody is on the same page. I think sometimes with young teams where you get lost, its always coach to player and theres no dialogue so that way we can find the best way to put players in the position they need to be. Sherm does a great job with communication and being able to get on the sideline like that Indianapolis game, like, This is what I saw. Hes speaking to you because he was on the football field, he saw it. So that dialogue is always great. Him being able to do that and having that veteran presence and all that stuff is always beneficial.

Can you talk about what went into the decision, I know John has talked about releasing DL Jeremiah Attaochu, but just the composition of that group, having only those three guys and then it seems like you have an abundance of inside guys. What went into the thinking of constructing it that way?

You know, with Attaochu, he did flash. It always comes back down to dependability and whether or not you can be available for game day. That defensive line is filled with NFL talent all the way, whether youre an edge rusher or an inside guy, it doesnt matter. We feel like weve got the best group of D-Line that we couldve possibly had with the men that were in our training camp. The decision on that will always come back to dependability.

What did it for DL Ronald Blair III? Was it his versatility that hes able to line up basically anywhere?

He does have versatility. I always mess with the staff. I always say, If you like winning, then you like Ronnie. He just always wins. He always finishes on the block. He does what hes supposed to do. Hes got great versatility. We love Ronnie. We love his work ethic. He stands for everything we believe in. He gets the job done. So, for Ronnie, it was very easy.

What do you think is going to be the most challenging aspect that the Vikings present?

Theyre very talented. Their skill guys are very talented. Theyve got a good scheme. I know [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk [Cousins], obviously the quarterback is special. From a talent standpoint, theyre very good. So, from that standpoint, just the challenge of it all is being able to execute on our end. Guys are on it. Guys have been communicating great in practice. Theyre really locked into the game plan. Were excited about the opportunity to go against them.

When you study them and then you know what Kirk brings to the table, how do you think he maybe can elevate them from where they were a year ago?

With Kirk, whenever you get a quarterback like Kirk, just the precision and the efficiency at which they operate, their timing, he elevates everyone just by making things go more efficiently, being pinpoint with his accuracy. Hes an elite quarterback. Them having him is going to be beneficial for them. Again, its really no different for us. For us, every week were going to play great quarterbacks and were going to play great players. I know our guys are ready for the challenge.

Have you spent more time with Kyle this week in devising your own game plan, what you want to do, just because of his history with the quarterback and kind of the knowledge he has on Kirk Cousins?

Kyles always involved, every week. Kyles very, very good at trying to formulate a plan for the entire team, to understand what its going to take as a team to win. Its not offense, defense, special teams. Its a team effort and what weve got to do collectively as a group. Hes involved with special teams, hes involved obviously with the offense and hes involved with defense to make sure that were all on the same page and were all trying to achieve one goal and how were going to do that within the parameters of our scheme. Hes involved with everything.

Whats been your experience with Week 1? Is that an oddball week for teams because you havent really seen what the opponent is going to do? It seems like theres always a few upsets in Week 1.

Theres always the unknown. Two years ago when we were in Jacksonville, we played Green Bay. After the game in Jacksonville, we felt like we played a pretty good game against them. He had a quote. His quote was, You see 75 percent of what theyre going to do. Youre prepared for 75 percent and the other 25 percent is the unknown. We feel really good about what we have. Im sure theyre going to throw some wrenches in their scheme. Im sure theyre going to have some trick plays or something that we havent seen, but we feel really good about our scheme and the way we do things. We feel like well be prepared for whatever they try to throw at us.

You and John Lynch mentioned dependability with Attaochu. Did he suffer another injury after the Colts game or what was his injury history when he was here?

Ill leave that one alone for the training staff and everybody on how they could answer that one. Im sorry.

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo ran a lot of RPOs last year, sort of famously in the Super Bowl. There are a lot of trends in this league and a lot of things dont always carry over year to year in terms of success rate because defenses can make adjustments. Do you think RPOs are something that have legitimate staying power or do you think maybe its another wayward trend in the NFL where it doesnt necessarily last?

I know the RPO system got a lot of media attention over the offseason. Is it a part of what they do? Im sure. Is it why theyre going to win or lose football games? I dont think so. It is a cool little wrinkle that offenses can put into their system, but like anything else, if you do it too much, defenses, thats all we do is watch tape, were going to figure it out. So, we feel good about our plan. Im sure theyll have some RPOs, but thats definitely not make or break for them. Its a good wrinkle, Ill just say that. Eventually defenses always catch up and we feel good about what we have going for our offseason studies.

Does that mainly fall on Malcolm? Is he the guy that the quarterback is mainly reading for those RPOs?

Theyre reading, every down its somebody different. So, without getting into too much scheme in what were seeing, I believe that all 11 are always exposed. So, its just a matter of us being on our details in exactly what were trying to accomplish defensively.

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