Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

Press Conference – December 21, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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This happened several times in this past game, whenever there’s a set of downs at the goal line, how much does the intensity for you raise as the defensive play caller when you know it’s do or die in that situation?

“The intensity is very high in those moments. It’s something we always talk about, just give us a blade of grass to stand on and we have to stand up and make plays there. And it’s just a credit really to our defensive line. It all starts with them, the way they set the tone of resetting the line of scrimmage, giving our second level guys a chance to shoot through and make plays. So it’s all about those guys up front and the way they set the tempo for us. And those guys did a fantastic job on Sunday of making those plays and not blinking. That was the cool part about it. No matter what adversity we faced there early in the game, nobody blinked, nobody worried what was going to happen. Everybody just took it upon themselves to go out and make plays to put us in a good position to win the game.”

Speaking of the defensive line, DL Arik Armstead made a nice tackle down there early on. Have you seen, since he’s started playing defensive tackle predominantly, have you seen him getting better and better each week just as he’s gotten used to that role?

“Yes. Since we’ve moved Arik inside, he’s definitely gotten better each week. Each week you see his game just increase, he’s making more and more plays inside. I feel like he’s continuing to be the dominant player he was on the outside. He’s just as dominant inside now. So it’s just a matter of him just getting comfortable. Any time you change positions, doing something different, a little different technique, different footwork, it takes time to develop that and it takes time to really take off with it. Arik has done that. He’s done it in a fairly short time. He’s done really well with it and I continue to see him doing better. So I’m happy with what Arik has done inside and it gave us a chance to really play better against the run having Arik inside.”

Tennessee has been committed to the run for the last few years, much like you guys are, except for they’ve done it with one guy. And then that one guy went down, and they’re still running it. What are they doing that enables them to do that?

“Yeah, I think it is just the mentality of their head coach. They want to be physical. They want to establish a ground presence and it doesn’t change no matter who’s been in for them. I know they’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries, guys in, guys out, but it doesn’t matter. Their mentality is, starting with their O-Line. They want to push you around. They want to run the ball. They want to be physical. That’s their mindset. And it hasn’t changed, no matter which running back is back there, you can tell they all have that same mindset. They want to run the ball. They want to be physical, so it’s going to a really good challenge for us against a really good running offense.”

Is that a, I don’t know, a good opponent for a short week in that, ‘Hey, line up and play.’ We have to beat the guy in front of us as maybe it’s not as complicated as another game would be?

“Yeah. I think that’s the kind of ball you get into. The more you keep playing in December, when you’re playing meaningful ball, I think that’s the type of ball games you play in. It’s going to be run game heavy. Guys not trying to make mistakes, offensively, not trying to turn the ball over. And defensively, can you be sound and detailed in your assignments. And it’s going to be, may the best team win at that point, but it’s not a lot of tricking going on, it’s just line up and see who can beat who.”

Has CB Ambry Thomas played well enough to hold on to a starting job?

“Ambry has done some good things for us. I think he’s still a young player, I think it was Ambry’s second game at corner. One of the toughest positions to play on a defense. So a young guy out there, he’s done some good things for us, some encouraging things. He just has to keep growing, keep getting better.”

We can see how he does on the field. How has he been behind the scenes when you talk to him? What are those conversations like?

“Yeah, Ambry’s been fine. I’ve seen a difference in his confidence level. I think he’s fine. Mentally he’s been doing a really good job. Great job in the meetings. Great job in practice, so I can tell that he’s definitely moving in the right direction, becoming a pro, he’s doing a much better job for us. And I’m encouraged with where he is now. He just has to continue to keep growing. Go challenge guys, don’t back down, keep challenging guys and keep fighting to make plays.”

I’m going to try, but will he start Thursday?

“We’ll see.”

Going back to a couple of weeks ago and on Sunday, we talked about how important it was for your defense to make this their home, to truly take advantage of being with their fans. And on Sunday, I got to see DB Jimmie Ward kind of get up and chat it up with his fans. Do you feel like they finally have that home field advantage like that energy’s finally there?

“Oh, for sure. I think the energy in our stadium here at Levi’s Stadium has been outstanding and it’s also a credit to the way we’ve played. I think that’s it. Fans need something to cheer for. So it all starts with our guys, offensively defensively, special teams, guys making plays that’s what gets the fans excited. So we just had to stand up on our home turf and make plays, give the fans something to be excited about, give them that pride they have in our team. We had to allow them to be able to do that, and I think that’s what we’ve done over the past couple weeks. And now we feel the energy from the crowd. You feel guys making plays and it’s a totally different atmosphere than it was in the beginning of the year. So we definitely appreciate our fans for representing, being loud as possible, making Levi’s a tough place to play in.”

On Armstead’s stop at the goal line, DL Kevin Givens knocked back the center. Does that stop happen without what Kevin Givens does? And he’s the guy we don’t talk as much about. How has he been coming along this year?

“Kevin’s been coming along really well. That’s what Kevin does really well is disrupt. You see the play he made versus the Minnesota Vikings when he shot through and he forces a fumble there and creates a turnover for us. Kevin does a really good job of penetrating, getting in and playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage. And that’s no different from the play he made on the goal line with Kevin, Arik, [DL Nick] Bosa, all those guys penetrating. That’s what allowed us to make that play.”

What’s Nick Bosa like in meetings when you guys are going over film, whether it’s the pass game and he’s getting a sack or maybe looking ahead and seeing opportunities for the upcoming game?

“Bosa, he’s the same as he always is. Bosa, he is quiet, he’s always locked in, quiet guy, but very detailed in what he does. He’s a very smart player and he knows what he’s doing. And probably one of the most detailed rushers I’ve ever been with. And he’s just constantly, always around the quarterback. I’m happy to have him on our team. And I think I said it before last week, but it’s every week, he is as productive as anybody in the league and to do that coming off of ACL injury, it’s unheard of. And definitely should have some type of promotion for whether it’s Comeback Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year. Like, Bosa definitely deserves that from what he went through last year, being out of ball, coming back from a really tough injury to come back for him and to be better, it says a lot about him and it’s very impressive.”

Do you get the impression sometimes that he’s not telling you everything he knows? Because it seems like sometimes he’ll come out with something like, “Whoa, okay. You were paying attention.”

“Oh, I know. That’s why I said Bosa is a very smart guy. He’s calculated, he takes everything in, he listens and he wants to be better. He always is looking for the information to be better and Bosa is a very smart guy. He’s definitely listening, paying attention to everything that we give him.”

Holiday question for you, what are your favorite Christmas traditions?

“My favorite Christmas tradition is really just Christmas Eve the family normally gets together and we all just get gifts from everyone. That was one cool part about growing up, whether it was a pair of socks, a toothbrush, candy, everybody was able to get something from grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody just being there together, sharing that time and that moment with family. That was the most special part about Christmas for us, we don’t get that much time nowadays to do it, but my favorite memory is just being around my family during that time.”

Just going back to the Bosa question, does he ever open up to you about potential frustration on certain calls? Because when he comes in here and we ask him, he’s kind of like, I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not going to get fined. Does he open up to you about that? Do you give him any advice on how to just keep his head cool?

“No, he doesn’t open up to me about that. It’s not been an issue. He just has to keep going, keep working like he’s working and we’ll be just fine.”

DL Arden Key and his effectiveness at defensive tackle, has that been season-long or was there a point where he started playing more of those pass rush situations there?

“Yeah, I think Arden has progressively gotten better and he’s proven to us that he can go in and be an effective pass rusher for us. And he’s, man, the past couple weeks, I don’t know if it’s been every week, but he’s consistently hitting the quarterback. And when you do that, that just gives us more confidence to give him more opportunities to go out and rush the passer. And that’s what he’s been doing, I think Arden is having a career year, the most sacks he’s ever had in his career. I’m so happy for him to be able to have the type of year that he’s having. I’m proud of the way that he works and I’m proud of what he’s doing on Sundays for us.”

Is there a coaching point? Is there anything you can do to avoid the kind of call that went against him last week?

“I’m not sure. You just have to tell the guys that you just have to be careful. Everybody’s sensitive with the quarterback, so you have to be very careful with how you’re landing on the quarterback, how you’re hitting the quarterback. You just have to be very conscious as a rusher and it’s hard because, first things first, it’s so hard to get there. And then when you get there and now you have to think about, ‘well, how am I landing on him? Did I hit him too hard?’ It’s just, it’s hard. The game is changing in that way, which is tough on players.”

Do you have to teach them to roll? Like is that the–?

“Yeah, you just have to teach them and we understand that we can’t put our full body weight on the quarterback when we’re taking him to the ground. So we have to kind of roll off to the side when we are taking him to the ground.”