Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh

Press Conference – November 25, 2020

San Francisco 49ers

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CB Jamar Taylor seemed to have a really good game against the Rams the last time you played them. I think Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp finished with 11 receiving yards. What did he, what did you guys as a whole do well in that game to sort of limit that Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff-Kupp connection?

“You know, I thought our guys did a really nice job executing, playing within themselves, playing within the scheme and did a really nice job studying and you know, Kupp had a lot of opportunities to get to do a little bit more. They did miss on some stuff to their credit, I guess which benefited us. But, he is a challenge him and [Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods] 17, both really, really big-time challenges, Woods. And it’s every time you go out there they’ve got a plethora of weapons that they can operate with. And that particular game, I just thought our guys did a really nice job executing.”

I understand this works both ways, but last year’s game in L.A. and this year’s game at Levi’s were two of the Rams, like statistically worse performances over the past two seasons. I mean, just that familiarity with that offense, is there a certain confidence level facing them and could that explain some of your recent success?

“I don’t know from a confidence-level standpoint. I always feel like when you play in-Division opponents they’re usually grinds. It doesn’t really matter. There’s an, aside from scheme, there’s so much familiarity with players, players knowing players and how they play. And so, you get enough reps against the certain player, you know how they play for lack of a better word. But, those Divisions, these Division games are always tight. They’re always tough, both opponents know each other very, very well. And I just feel like it’s always a grind. The second time we played them was a shootout, first time wasn’t. So, it can go either way, but you always feel like in these games are just somehow someway it’s going to come down to the last couple of drives of the game.”

With so many guys on the COVID list, how are you adjusting your practice with, especially the defensive line?

“It’s going to be a challenge, obviously we’ve got to be creative and make sure that guys are being taken care of because there’s a lot of not just one defense up practicing, but you’ve also got your scout-team guys. And so, it is going to be a challenge. We do have to have some guys do things that they’re not normally asked to do just for today. And once we get guys back, we can start practicing normal, but we’ll be okay, we’ll get things done and people will get the work that they need to prepare.”

In the Rams game against Tampa, it seemed that Goff, you know, he had the new left tackle there and it seemed like they were going with the short passing game. Fifty-one passes is a lot. What are you expecting to see from that passing, is that something you’re expecting to see again, just kind of as they kind of get comfortable behind that new left tackle?

“I don’t know about that. I think Tampa did such a great job stopping their run game. Their pass rush, Tampa’s pass rush is amongst one of the best ones in football. And so, the best way to defeat a great pass rush is to get rid of the ball pretty quick. And so, I think [Los Angeles Rams head coach] Sean [McVay] and his staff do such a great job with regards to presenting different challenges every week to their opponent and creating a game plan and a style at which they want to play. So, if it becomes that it becomes it. I mean, they’ve played us many different ways. They ran the ball down our throat the first time we played them. The second time they ran a million boots and then this game, they mix and matched some stuff that I thought they had chances at, but we got lucky on some, but we executed on others. But so, you never know, you’ve just got to go with the flow of the punches and make sure that we’re ready to adjust on the sideline.”

This one’s going to come in in two parts. So, one, the tackling metrics say that you guys have been near the top of the league. This season, the tackling has been a lot better than even last season. Is that something that is also showing up on film and two with the Bye, LB Fred Warner mentioned that the tackling was good, but not as good against New Orleans. So, with the Bye, can you expect some fresh legs or do you expect that to improve again here this week?

“So, with tackling, team speed, teams that have a great amount of speed will always end up in the top of the league, in my opinion, in terms of tackling. Especially with how much emphasis we put on it, day in and day out with our tackling circuits and all the things that we do here. But, the last couple of games haven’t been our best. So, hopefully after this Bye week we can get some of our legs just like you said to regain some of that speed so that one step we need to make sure that we close in on a tackle and make sure we finish a tackle will be like it was the first half of the year. But yeah, I always feel like we have tremendous team speed, especially at that linebacker position and our D-Line coming off the stack. And there’s just, we cover ground very, very quickly, especially when you’ve got guys looking at the quarterback, you get an early break on the ball and you’ve got a chance to close space as quickly as you can. And [LB Dre] Greenlaw does such a good job in tracking, the corners, the safeties. [DB] Jimmie Ward is phenomenal as an eraser. He eliminates so many explosives because of his ability to tackle out of the middle of the field. So yeah, this group works very, very hard at that craft of tackling and they take a lot of pride in each individual player. And so, all of them have taken it upon themselves to improve year after year, especially Fred this offseason. He’s been fantastic so hopefully we can keep that going. Hopefully our legs coming back helps that out, but the standard at which we tackle it’s got to maintain.”

A compulsory Thanksgiving question for you. What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions when you get to have Thanksgiving and what are your favorite foods?

“All right. I love it. Pumpkin pie as my appetizer. I love pumpkin pie. So, that’s kind of my little tradition is wake up in the morning and have a little piece of pumpkin pie. But gosh, there’s not much that we, we like all of it. I’m not going to lie to you. But, to be thankful for all of the fact that we get to have a good family dinner and just appreciate one another and have a good meal. So, it’s a great day to always remind yourself to be thankful for a lot.”

After reviewing the film, why did your defense play so much better against the Saints this year than last year? I mean, given how many points you gave up against that offense last year and the players you’ve lost since then, it might’ve been reasonable to expect your guys to give up like eight yards a play, as opposed to four.

“You know, last year with the New Orleans, I thought they did a, the speed at which they operated was a lot faster than I think even I anticipated. And so, we had, and it starts with me always, you want to eliminate as much gray area as possible and you always want to put those guys in a position to go play at their highest level. And so, to do that, there’s got to be a simplicity within checks so those guys can just line up and go play. And we had more of an emphasis this year in, ‘Hey, we’re just going to line up. We’re not going to chase [New Orleans Saints QB Taysom Hill] seven all over the field. We’re just going to line up, play football, keep our eyes on the quarterback and play good, sound, fundamental football, get our feet in the ground and let’s just go execute. And I thought those guys did phenomenal taking that approach and I thought they did a great job turning around, getting focused, understanding the tempo at which they operate and really weren’t overwhelmed with the speed at which they operate. Even though it doesn’t seem like much, those guys operate pretty quick when they, especially with all the personnel changes that they have, it could get overwhelming for not only a defensive player, but for a coaching staff also. And I thought the guys did, from coaching staff to players, all of them, I thought they did a fantastic job handling all of it and executing.”

I think the last time we spoke with you, you said that things were really starting to click for DT Javon Kinlaw and he may be a step or two away from getting to the quarterback and then he has that performance against the Saints. How did you assess his performance in that game?

“You know, it always seems like it’s a coincidence, right? We talked about it leading into that game that it felt like he’s just a step away. If he just keeps grinding, keeps doing what he’s doing and he’s going to start getting the production. And then you get a game where it clicks. He gets a sack and a half. He makes an unbelievable third-and-two stop where he just absolutely destroys the guard. He’s active all over the football field. He’s running, he’s batting balls. He’s active in the screen game. And so, he’s going to be special. He’s got to continue with that mindset that I love this answer when everyone asks about the sack, he said, it’s just one and that’s true. The beautiful thing about professional football is nobody really cares about what happened the play before. We want to see the next play. And he takes that to heart. He knows that what happened the play before doesn’t matter, he’s got to operate and do the best he can on the very next play. I love everything about him. He’s going to be special. He’s just got to keep that mindset.”

You mentioned, just because of guys out on COVID and whatnot, you have to get creative today at practice. Can you provide specifics or if not specifics, generalities? I mean, do you have K Robbie Gould at nose guard or what you might have to do just to get through the practice?

“I think defensively, the structure of the defense will be fine, but when we have to service the offense, you know, you get one of the fullbacks to play defensive end, just something, something just to make sure that guys are being put in different positions just to make sure that the service look is as optimal as it can be without sacrificing the work that needs to get done on both sides of the ball. So, offense coming on and over and playing some defense, defense going over there playing some offense from a service look. But as far as defense and the structure of being able to practice and get our reps and work done for the game, I think we’ll be fine.”

What went into the decision to have DB Tarvarius Moore and Jimmie Ward play safety together. And which one is more of the strong safety now, I guess, or do you have to make them more interchangeable in what they do?

“So, to answer the second part, they’re definitely interchangeable. So, to get caught up on the strong safety free safety thing, it’d be a very, very long dissertation. But you know, we wanted to get more speed on the football field, plain and simple. Tarvarius runs a 4.3, [S] Marcell Harris is incredibly fast and he plays extremely fast inside the box. And then obviously, Jimmie so versatile, frees up Jimmie to do a little bit more than just stay in the middle of a field also with [S Jaquiski] Tartt being out and moving Marcell to play more of that dime look, he’s still a safety, is just a compliment more to allow Jimmie some freedom to go play more, to do more and unlock some of the talents that he has. And then at the same time, being able to utilize some of the strength that T-Moore has. So, just trying to get our best 11 on the football field, try to get a little bit faster and continue to work with it and see what happens.”