Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster Press Conference

Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster

Press Conference – January 5, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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I recall you talking about how you assigned different guys on your line to scout opposing players. Who was in charge of Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt or who has been in charge of J.J. Watt and what’s been the takeaway about how you go against a guy like that?

“Well, last time we did it, we had [OL Daniel] Brunskill do it because he’d played against him the most, so instead of giving him to [OL Spencer] Burford or [OL Aaron] Banks, we let Dan kind of set the table as to what you do against the guy. This week, we gave it to Spencer since he’ll be starting exclusively on the right side now. We’ll hear what the takeaway is. We review it later in the week and kind of make sure we solidify a plan for the guy. We watch the tape during the week and J.J. is just a great, impactful player. He makes big plays at critical times in the games– he has through his whole career. It’s hard to believe he’s not going to be playing anymore after this because he’s done such a great job and endured for so long and been such a good player and so impactful. Just talking to my buddy in Tampa, asking them their takeaway from playing him later in the season and he said we probably didn’t give him his due. A couple short yardage plays, he busted in the backfield, made a play, got a big sack on their left tackle that was in there. He said we probably didn’t account from as much as we should have and it hurt them in the game. I remember, I won’t tell a story again. I’ll stop there. That’s what it was.”

Head coach Kyle Shanahan really praised OL Mike McGlinchey’s play in the last game. Did you see the same thing? You may or may not know he is a relatively controversial player in 49er fandom. He gets some criticism. What do you think of his season overall?

“Yeah, I’m sorry, I don’t know what others say. Coaching him, I get to work with them every day and we work on it together and I’m not aware of that, but I do know that we did work on some things last week and he came in on Friday morning and we had a great discussion looking at [Las Vegas Raiders] Maxx [Crosby], looking at really more Mike and things that he could have done. And he made a couple little tweaks in his pass sets that helped him. It happens all the time. It happened with [T] Trent [Williams] this week. It gets away from them a little bit, it gets away from me. Sometimes you’re looking at schematics, you’re looking at things like that and you don’t realize that fundamentally there’s just this little thing that might help you just a little bit. Now we had a plan for Maxx. Mike did a very good job when he had his reps and opportunities against him. We also had a plan for Maxx. It’s like when we talk about [Los Angeles Rams DT] Aaron Donald, those guys are great rushers to say that somebody one-on-one did it. I’m not diminishing Mike. Mike did a good job and I’m not diminishing at all, but we also have a plan and everybody contributes. And I think if you asked Mike, he’d say the same thing. We had chips, we had slides, we had this, we had that. We had a lot of different ways to try to neutralize a good player like that because it’s never just going to be, Hey, you got him, here you go, but Mike did, and part of it was some of the fundamental tweaks that he made during the week that helped him. And I think he went in with a good mindset and we were fortunate with the way the game went and he did a really fine job. I’m happy for Mike and the game that he played, but now it’s this week and all it takes is one play, two plays here and there and it’s the same thing. That’s the life of an offensive lineman. It’s like nobody knows the long snapper until the ball isn’t snapped properly and then everybody knows the long snapper. That’s kind of like an offensive lineman and that’s where Mike is right now.”

Is there almost more pressure on the guys who aren’t lined up next to an Aaron Donald or a J.J. Watt or Maxx Crosby for them to hold up their end of the bargain while the focus is on that one outstanding defensive end?

“There certainly can be. Yeah, there certainly can be when you’ve decided to do something to focus, to take away a guy, the other guys, you’re saying have to hold up. It all depends on where the guy is and what his skillset is and how you can handle him and how you’re going to take care of him. That does do it. And the great thing for us as an offensive line is Kyle is so flexible with how we can adjust things to help linemen and we’ve had to be, because you have to adapt to having Aaron Donald in your division. And if you just say, well we’re just going to let the chips fall, we’re going to block Aaron Donald like we would any other three-technique, you’re in for a long day. And some people do that and they managed to win and do a good job. I’m not saying you have to account for him on every play, we’ve just decided, we started to create within our system the ability to be able to do it. And it’s grown over time because we’ve thought of ways, the lineman has suggested things, I have, Kyle thinks of something and then we try to incorporate it and find other ways to do some of the same things. Maybe still allowing as much flexibility in the passing game as we can and then still being able to either protect and in the run game accounting for what they do to disrupt, being careful of what we run at or away from those guys, so it does put though, to answer your question, a lot of pressure on the other guys, but that’s the way it works. The good thing is those other guys also get help when they happen to draw J.J. or when they happen to draw Maxx or when they happen to draw Aaron Donald because he doesn’t just exclusively line up on one side like Maxx did. The other guys benefit too, we’re going to come help you too, so it spreads it out a little bit.”

On RB Christian McCaffrey’s screen in the fourth quarter he gained like 40 yards down the left sideline, Brunskill had that block, he had to get out. Is that a particularly tough assignment for Brunskill in that case and what do you think of the effort had?

“Yeah, well if your name’s not Trent Williams, anytime you have to run about 20 yards to make a block, it’s going to be a challenge, so, first of all, they’re challenged that way. Secondly, when you have a rusher in your face and you have to block him for a second, then you’re going to try and slip him and get out into the screen and then in that process get there in time to make a block on a guy that was really pretty aggressive on Christian. I think when you watch screens, the thing to notice is if the guy that’s catching the screen is way ahead of the offensive lineman, meaning that he’s out here and we’re still back here, that screen is going to have a hard time succeeding, so to get that block when you’re that far away takes a lot of patience by that guy and the lineman has to really go to get that block, which is what happened on that play. Normally, you want to see the back and the guard coming out together and when you see that, that’s like one of the key timing points in the screen because now whoever’s coming to defend the screen, he’s lined up for my big guys because they’re not going to be running around in space all the time. That lines everything up for them, then the back can set the block. When they’re way ahead, like what happened to Dan, he’s just running his butt off to get out there and then just laying out, I credit Dan. One of the few times I hugged a player on the sideline. I hugged Dan when he came over. I thought it was such a good block and a big point in the game and also I thought it was a great effort to get out. It’s what his job is, but it’s not easy. and he did it and he did it well. And I give a lot of credit to Christian too because he’s a very good screen runner as a back and he saw what was at hand and he was able to just pause enough. A young guy might have just caught the ball and ran and Dan couldn’t have made that block, even with the situation as it was, he set the block up well.”

How many hugs do you give out a year on average?

“It’s my first one in a long time and I don’t remember the last one. How’s that?”

I think that was Brunskill’s first game at left guard or at least extensive game, how many snaps in a week will he get at left guard?

“Not, because if he would been the swing guard, which he is, but if he literally was not like, when Spencer was playing full-time at right guard, if they hadn’t been splitting time, Dan would’ve probably gotten probably 16 reps a day at both guards, but because he was splitting time with Spencer, he was probably only getting probably four to five reps a day, so maybe that’s 15 reps in the week, maybe less at left guard. Now Dan’s played both positions. He’s played left tackle, he’s the one guy that can do it, but it’s not easy to all of a sudden go out there and it is a little bit, yes you can brush your teeth with your opposite hand, but it’s not comfortable for the first couple times that you do it. It’s a little bit like that, it’s a little bit backwards for a minute. He luckily has gotten reps at it and did a good job.”

I think at the time of the draft there was talk about OL Nick Zakelj and OL Jason Poe playing center at some point in the future. Have those guys gotten a lot of center snaps during the season?

“So they all took snaps starting in the preseason. The quarterback center, exchange early. Very little team reps, because we had two or three guys we were repping through the position. And when we get to this point in the season, what happens is as long as you have two guys, as long as your backup center isn’t playing all the time, which in this case Dan wasn’t, you feel pretty good going into a game with two centers, because he’s not on the field all the time, but when both your guys that are your centers are on the field playing, you get a little bit nervous because you’re now putting both of them at risk more, so now this week we have had to up the reps. Now they’ve actually started taking reps with the scout team reps, well not with the offensive center, but Dan takes the second reps with the offensive center, but with the scout team. Nick because he’s active, Poe is on the practice squad, so we’re not repping him. [OL] Keith [Ismael] also is not, but [OL Colton] McKivitz is another guy that’s taken snaps for us. He was the guy that we had prepped for a lot last year as well and in the past. So Colton’s taken reps at center, so they were splitting reps inside. So between Nick and Colton, we’ve got a third and a fourth center if need be to at least, I think they’d do more than get us out of the game. For example, when they used to only let us dress seven linemen, I’ve had a couple games where we had to put a tight end at tackle at the end of the game. That’s getting you out of a game where you’re holding on and you’re not getting out the game very well. These guys could actually go in and snap the ball and have some success playing center, albeit they just haven’t had a lot of reps.”