Ken Whisenhunt: I think protecting the quarterback is paramount to this league.

Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt previews 49ers vs Chargers.

On WR Mike Williams:

“Well, I kind of feel like he's still developing. He's doing a good job. He's kind of growing into a lot of different roles. Obviously, the catch down the field was a big play and it was nice to see him make that play. We're learning more and more about Mike, his ability to do different things and how we can try to get him in different spots. To his credit, he's worked hard to do that, So it's an exciting time.“

On Mike Williams’ progress:

“You know what? I think naturally, just because you're not a rookie anymore. Things change, but I think he's fortunate to be in with a really good group of receivers — a good group of guys. I mean, that's probably the most special thing. I think that's really helped him develop. [WR] Keenan [Allen] and [WR] Tyrell [Williams], [WR] Travis [Benjamin] — those guys are really good. They're really good men and really good players. They talk and then help each other. I think situationally as well as [their preparation], they have come a long way in helping Mike. To Mike's credit, he listens and does a good job.”

On if he is surprised with Mike Williams’ performance this season:

“You know, if you had asked me this last time this year — if you had asked me this a year ago — I would say probably yes because I hadn't seen him do it. When we talked about this earlier, we talked about how during the course of OTAs and through camp he started making more and more plays and just started building. So I've been very impressed with his body of work over the last three months. It's just great to see that starting to pay off. A lot of times with the younger players, confidence is a big part of it. When you make a couple of big plays like he's done, then you can build off of that. He's been really good to see.”

On if Mike Williams’ deep receiving touchdown meant more with Rams CB Marcus Peters in coverage:

“Well, it means more — I think it does, yeah. Actually, technically, it was against Marcus and [Rams CB Aqib] Talib. Talib was coming back over the top and he got there, too. So two of their best players, he made a play when they were right there. So, yeah, that's impressive. I mean, you've got to give Mike credit. He was disciplined in his route. He did exactly what he needed to do, which gave him the leverage to do what he did. Let's not forget [QB Philip Rivers] made a pretty good throw, but still, Mike did a great job coming down with it.”

On areas where Mike Williams can improve:

“A lot of times, it's easy. We have a play in a game where he slipped on a route and moved back up on the third down. We had a pass to him, and he was wrapping in there [on the route] and [QB] Philip [Rivers] was getting ready to throw it and he slipped. He got out of position with his body, his feet got out from under him and he went down. Those are the little kind of things that maybe you don't notice because the ball's not coming to him. In that particular situation, those are the things that all of us, everybody has to continue to work on — just those kind of things — but, once again, he's doing a really good job.”

On if you can correct putting your body in the right position:

“Yes. It's really about staying on your feet and how you make the cut. Sometimes, you stand up too high and you lean the wrong way going into a cut, your feet catch the grass the wrong way and slip out from under you. Listen, Mike's [Williams] not the only guy that happens to. You see it happen all the time, but when you ask about the little things that you want to work on, those are some of the little things that you always have to continue to try to work on.”

On better first down production than last season:

“I think maybe being together for a second year. You know, we've got some new guys, [C Mike] Pouncey has taken it well — no disrespect to any of the guys that we've had here before, but our group, just understanding the scheme, we're doing a better job of implementing that, and our backs are doing a good job. [Running Backs Coach] Alfredo [Roberts] and those guys have worked with them. Hitting their landmarks and being able to do some things from different scheme-wise that fit what they do well, I think has helped us a lot. So it had to be. I mean, our head coach is a running back guy. If they weren't better, somebody was going to pay.”

On the NFL’s weight rule regarding protecting quarterbacks:

“With anything, when you talk about defensive pass interference, there are a lot of different calls in this game where they're going to create interest, controversy. I think protecting the quarterback is paramount to this league just because those guys are so important and they're such good players. The league is trying to do it and they're trying to protect the quarterback. With anything, there are always going to be some bumps in the road in trying to make it right. It's so hard because the game goes so fast. I think they're trying to do that. I respect that. I know there are a lot of people that have opinions about it, but I can't — I mean, you just have to go out there and continue to push on. I understand what the uproar is about, but it doesn't affect getting ready to play San Francisco this week, so I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it.”

On T Sam Tevi:

“I think Sam has grown in that position. I think he's a little bit like Mike Williams, you know. He's getting some extended playing time. We saw a little bit of him last year against the Jets. He started that game and did a pretty good job — made a few mistakes. I think what you're seeing of him now is he's still making a few mistakes, but he's really doing some good things. You can tell he's starting to understand the subtleties of the position and how to play it. So he's growing in a position. Kudos to him because what you want to see is a guy that has his talent work the way that he's working and seeing him grow into that position. So he's doing a nice job.”

On the offensive line:

“You know, it would be hard to say you're pleased about anything when you haven't won all three games, but the thing that I would say we're pleased with how the guys are working. We are doing some good things, especially in the run game. We're doing some good things protection-wise. I mean, we can always do better. We have to start games better than we've been starting them. But the way the line is coming and working together, yeah, I'm pleased with how that group has gone. 

On facing a similar defensive scheme:

“You know, it's like you asked me last week, we knew [Rams Defensive Coordinator] Wade [Phillips] because we played him all those years in Denver. You know, sometimes it does, sometimes it hurts because you think that you know what you're going to see or you know that you're going to get this look. I mean, there are subtle differences that they do. They have different players. We're not going against the guys — the same guys that we see every day. So it's different. It is similar, but it is a little bit different. I think you have to try to prepare. You can't say, okay, hey, [Defensive Coordinator] Gus [Bradley], run this because they run it a little bit different you run it against different players. You have to look at it from the perspective of both. We're looking at different defense, different guys and prepare that way.”

On struggling to score on the opening possession:

“I tell you what, if you go back to 2016, I think we were one of the better teams in the league in scoring on first possessions, but that didn't give us much. So I think it is a stat that you can measure things by, but it doesn't necessarily factor into how good you're going to be now. Now I say that and we're 1-2, but, yes, we need to be better at starting games. We got down against Denver last year for our chance to break that jinx, and we had first and goal, and then went four plays and didn't score. Gosh, we just haven't gotten out of that funk yet. That's something that we want to do better and it is something that we talked about.”

On G Dan Feeney:

“About halfway through the season last year when he had to get in and play, he was kind of thrown to the wolves. There were some things where he struggled a little bit, but he's a smart, tough player. He really works at it and he does it. What's really good is having [T] Russell [Okung] on his left side because those two communicate really well, and I think it helps him from that standpoint. He's grown into a good offensive player, a good offensive lineman. You know, he's had some pretty tough matchups. Last week against [Rams DT Aaron Donald] was not easy. There were a couple where it was tough for him, just like it is with every lineman that goes against the guy, but he held his own and fought, and we're pleased with how Dan's doing for us.”

On TE Antonio Gates:

“Well, you know, you always wonder where he is. I mean, you know he's a veteran, but we hadn't seen him in a long time. You worry about conditioning, you worry about risk of injury, all of those things for a guy in his position. So I think part of the process was getting through that, but it was definitely big for us last week the way he played and competed. He's in a good spot now. I think we can start thinking about more areas where he can contribute to us and what's good to have him.”

On how the offense has adjusted to the absence of TE Hunter Henry:

“Well, you know, there are a lot of teams that lose really good players, and Hunter is a really good player for us. I think we're fortunate because we've got a good group of guys that can be multiple and play different spots. You know, [TE] Virgil [Green] has done a really good job for us. He's played well. You can't replace Hunter — Hunter is a very gifted player for us — but our guys are working and doing a good job. So when Hunter gets back, it will be awesome because he'll make us even stronger.”

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