Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

Press Conference – December 30, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Let me ask you something I asked LB Fred Warner yesterday, which is how has QB Trey Lance been looking in practices as far as giving your defense a good taste of the upcoming opponent and whether that’s improved, gotten better over the last month or so?

“Yes. I think Trey has done an outstanding job over the past month or so. You can definitely see the improvement. He’s done a really good job of being more aggressive, taking shots on us and really threading the ball in some really tight coverage. So he’s done a really good job as far as challenging us, making it definitely harder for our guys to defend. I was definitely encouraged by what he’s done over the past month or so. It looks really well, so I’m pleased with Trey.”

What do you think about the rookie quarterback that you’re going to be facing and what other challenges do the Texans offense offer you?

“Yeah, I think the first thing with that offense is they’re going to lean on the run game. I think that’s how you help the rookie quarterback, definitely leaning on the run game. So they’ve done a good job, definitely the past week, where they’ve ran the ball very consistent with over a hundred yards rushing last week. So first things first, we have to stop the run game and they’ve helped the quarterback by running it. Also not putting too much on his shoulders. You could tell it’s been more screens, more boots, quick passes and he does a really good job. He goes through his progression really well for a young guy and he can find an open spot in zone coverage. So he’s done good job over the past couple weeks and you can see how they’ve been effective over the past couple weeks and able to win some games, based on the run game and his play.”

I think we ask you this every week, but just curious what your evaluation of how CB Ambry Thomas played against the Titans and how are you seeing him grow from week-to-week right now?

“Yeah, Ambry, he’s getting those quality reps. What young guys need. With young guys, you have to get thrown in a fire and you learn all on the job. It’s one thing to just practice all the time, but you have to get out there against live competition. Ambry has been matched up with some of the top receivers in the NFL and he’s gotten better and better each week. I see the confidence building in him. He was able to make some plays against some of the top guys and his confidence is still building. He’s still learning. He’s still growing, but I think he’s progressing in the right direction.”

You say that Houston Texans QB Davis Mills goes through his progression well, is that surprising or rare for a rookie to process quickly in his first season?

“I think it’s always difficult for the young guys when they first come in. Just seeing the different coverages and things that are presented in the NFL and to see a guy like Davis, you can tell he is a very smart guy. They don’t give him a lot, but the things that he has, he’s mastered those things and he does a really good job. And you can see the confidence in him from when he first started out the year up until their most recent game. You can see his confidence has grown throughout the season.”

LB Patrick Willis was just named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I don’t know how much you’ve crossed paths during your career or after, but as a lot of people say, you just kind of know a hall of Famer when you see him. Does he qualify as that in your estimation?

“Yeah, I think it’s a no-brainer that Patrick is a Hall of Famer. I remember Patrick from when he was back at Ole Miss, just making every tackle. Even when he had the big club on his fist, he was still out there making plays. He’s always been a dominant player from college all the way through his time in the NFL. Patrick is one of the best linebackers to play the game. You talk about speed, you talk about physicality, you talk about smarts, he’s everything you want in an inside linebacker. And he set the tone for the defense here, for the eight, nine years that he was here. He was that guy. He was the leader of this defense. And it was just always fun to watch him every time. Even when I was playing, [linebackers] coach Johnny Holland would give me, I was struggling at time with open field tackling, and he makes a DVD for me and it’s of Patrick Willis. And just studying Patrick and how he tackled, so it’s definitely a guy I respect. I have the utmost respect for Patrick and I can’t say enough good things about him. I know he’s a great man just off the field, but he’s always been a tremendous teammate and one of the premier linebackers in the league.”

When you went back and watched the Tennessee game there was a lot of third-and-longs that the Titans got. Were there a couple of things that were breaking down there that you could put your finger on that were fixable or was it just a different issue on every play? How did you kind of evaluate that?

“Overall, man, we were in position to make plays. We had to make plays and that’s what it came down to. I think we were in position, we just didn’t make the plays that we should have made. So it was discouraging, on third down when we’re in a very advantageous position, when we’re in those third-and-longs. So that should be a high percentage win for us defensively and we understand that. You just have to make the play. Guys recognize the routes and everything we’re doing, playing with proper leverage. So it was a couple different breakdowns. Each one had its own set of issues, but I just think guys, playing smarter, playing with the proper leverage and making a play when it’s your time to make a play. You have to go make that play.”

And following up on that, they did a lot of max protect. DL Nick Bosa was talking about the challenges of that. How much does that affect what you can do in terms of pass rush? And are there ways that if teams do that moving forward that you can counter that?

“Yeah. that’s what we’ve been getting the entire year. People are going to max protect to slow Bosa down. Bosa has been an effective rusher for us and he’s garnered that attention because of how productive he’s been. I have to do a better job of putting him in position to be successful.”