Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

Press Conference – November 18, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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It feels like you’re now a much smarter rookie defensive coordinator after that game, as opposed to the Cardinals game. What happened? Obviously, it’s not one thing, but what are some things that lead to that transformation?

“I think overall, you talk about fundamentals of football, like our guys, they tackle well, they play well on first and second down. We were able to get off the field on third down. What was the difference? Playmakers stepped up and made plays for us. That was the difference. [DB] Jimmie Ward made huge plays for us there, getting an interception on the first drive and coming back and getting the pick six. I think that’s the difference. Huf [S Talanoa Hufanga] making a play on third down, like our playmakers stepped up and made plays on third down. We tackled well. We were physical. And that was the difference. It was nothing glorious. It’s just us owning the fundamentals of our job, being ready to go, being on it and being where we needed to be and just making plays.”

Did you have a lot of fun calling plays that game? Was there different aspects of it because it seemed like you had different packages in there? Maybe like DL Nick Bosa and DL Samson Ebukam coming up in the middle.

“Yeah, I try to mix it up every week. We have something different every week for those guys. We had one with Samson and Bosa up the middle that was a little different for us, different package. And so, I thought they executed that really well, so I try to keep mixing it up as much as possible every week to not let teams just tee off on us and know exactly what we’re doing there. So we’ll continue to mix it up as much as we can because it’s about our guys. They give us the flexibility to do those things. With Bosa and Samson, their flexibility to move around, that allows me to be able to call those things and be confident in them.”

How has LB Dre Greenlaw looked?

“Greenlaw, he opened his window today, so it’s good to just see him back around. Good to see him in meetings. Good to see him just back. And I’m hoping that he keeps progressing and going in the right direction.”

With Nick Bosa playing on both sides now, do you see more productivity from him? Is he able to do more out there?

“Yeah. I think Bosa has done an outstanding job this entire year. You talk about a guy who’s coming back off of such a tragic injury with the ACL and just the way he’s come back this year and he hasn’t really missed a beat. He’s been moving around, but he’s been very productive. His sack production has been going up and he’s still steady climbing. He’ll probably have a career-year this year, the way he’s going, if he keeps trending in the right direction. Just think it’s awesome to see a guy who’s come back from such a devastating moment to see him come back this year, the way he’s come back and been just excellent for us. Very productive around the ball, around the quarterback. It’s a credit to him and I’m just still amazed at the way that he’s come back and not just have to ease his way back in, he’s come back and he’s played at a high level and he has not missed a beat. He’s actually gotten better, so I’m really pleased and excited for Bosa and what he’s done to come back this year. It has been awesome.”

You were so deliberate with him during training camp, because he was coming off that injury. But it seemed like once the season started, he was off and running. Does that surprise you that it happened like that?

“Yeah, it was very surprising. Not many guys can come back and just hop in like Bosa has done. Many guys you have to take your time and ease them into games and keep them on a rep count. When you look at our first game, he got way more reps than we thought he should get, but he was fine and he hasn’t missed a beat from there. It’s a testament to just how hard Bosa works when he’s here, when he’s not here, he’s always working on his body. And he’s a true pro.”

What did you know about Jimmie Ward when you came here and how has he evolved? I know he says he’s happier being a free safety now, but he’s not necessarily always hanging back there. He was up in the slot basically with Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp on that pick-six.

“Yeah, I know coming here Jimmie moved around. He was a corner and he’s moved around safety, he had nickel, so he’s moved around a lot of different positions. I think Jimmie is a lot more comfortable playing the free safety position, being able to come down and play man on third down. That’s, where he gives us the most flexibility. He’s one of our best man coverage guys on the team. So Jimmie is a very versatile player and he’s also shown that play-making ability, it hasn’t been always the interceptions that showed up this past Monday, but he’s always on his guy. You don’t find his man catching the ball much. He’s able to eliminate a guy from the field just because of his technique and the way he plays man coverage and him controlling the middle of the field. And the most important stuff that people see or don’t see is just his eraser reps coming from the middle of the field. When you have Jimmie in there and something breaks loose. Somebody misses a gap or something happens, Jimmie is that guy who can get the running back down, get the receiver down, whoever it may be. He’s confident in the way he’s been tackling. I think he’s tackling much better as the season went along, he’s confident he’s flying around. He’s playing at a very high level for us.”

He talked about how you asked him and the captains to talk to the defense and then they ended up having a players only meeting. Can you tell us how that transpired?

“That was just between those players and our captains. The leaders of the defense, just asked them to speak guys who voted them as captains. They were voted captains for a reason because the men in the locker room saw something different in those three guys that say that they want to follow those guys. They want to follow their lead, so I just asked them to say a few words to the defense. And then they kicked me out, so they had their own meeting, which I loved. I love seeing it and I don’t know what they talked about, but whatever they talked about, it worked.”

Going back to your days as a player, did you do that as well? Were there any points where you put that notice on the yourself?

“Yeah, that’s always comes up as a player. Sometimes you meet with the group yourself. As a leader, as a captain, you want to make sure that everybody’s on the same page. And my biggest thing with those guys is just understanding that you play for each other. It’s not about us as coaches. Like it doesn’t matter. It’s about those guys, the players, it’s about them, offensively and defensively playing for each other. And when they’re tight and they’re playing for each other, that’s when you become unstoppable.”

LB Azeez Al-Shaair had a couple of plays, I think back-to-back right before the fake field goal where the Rams were threatening maybe to get back into the game. Was that his best game? And that sequence how big was that for you guys?

“Yeah, Aziz has been playing really well all year. And yeah, he made some big plays for us there on the screen when they had us on the screen. Azeez, again a playmaker stepping up and making plays. Azeez made a big time play at a big moment in a game to knock them back. And that’s what he’s been doing all year. And I’m very happy with how he’s developed and come along, he’s gotten better and better each year. This is the most snaps he’s ever played and he’s taken advantage of the time that he’s been in there. And he’s done a really outstanding job just flying around, playing with great effort. His technique has been good and he’s playing physical and I love to see Azeez out there because he has fun out there. He’s excited. He has a lot of enthusiasm when he’s out there playing and guys feed off of that.”

The meeting that you had, did you feel there was some sort of disconnect in the locker room with your defense or something that needed to be done? And is that why you asked and if so, can we now trust that connection that they had on Monday is going to continue on for the rest of the season?

“I’ve never felt a disconnection from our defense at all. I just wanted the captains to talk to the team. It was no disconnect. Just wanted to change it up and let the guys who are the leaders speak to the team. So it’s never been a disconnect. And I never see that happening here because we have a really great locker room all the way around with all our guys that we have here. These guys are tight on and off the field, and it’s a special place to be a part of.”

How big of a loss, DL Darrion Daniels goes down yesterday and gets hurt. He’s off the practice squad now. It went on the transaction wire today. How well did he play last week leading up as Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald, I guess was his role? And just what was the effect in the locker room yesterday?

“Yeah, Darrion has done a great job since he’s been here. He’s been a lot on a scout team role, but he’s relished that role and he’s done a great job. He continued to get better and better each week. Darrion is a high energy guy who’s done a good job for us. It’s just unfortunate what happened to him. I know he’ll bounce back just fine.”

Even though DL Charles Omenihu only played a few snaps against the Rams, what did you see from those snaps and how does all of that kind of build from here forward?

“Yeah, I think Charles had a couple really good reps where he was able to get back and affect the quarterback. He just has to keep going, learning the techniques and performing them at a high level. But I thought he had a couple of reps where you can tell he’s close to getting to the quarterback. He just has to keep going, keep getting more reps and I think he can really help us in along the defensive line. He can help us when it comes to getting pressure at the quarterback.”