Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster Press Conference
Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster
Press Conference – September 7, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
Have you seen a noticeable raise in energy since DL Nick Bosa has been back in the building?
“I really haven’t noticed it. It was great energy all week actually. The guys have been really ready to go and have had a great couple days of practice and I really didn’t notice it, but I’m glad he’s back.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers has incredible depth of edge rushers, not just the starters, the backups are really good as well. Is this a game where you’re going to have to help T Trent Williams and OL Colton McKivitz consistently throughout the game?
“Well, I think you have to be aware. They’ve got good players across the board on the defense. Their defensive linemen are talented. [DT Cameron Heyward] 97’s a very good rusher as well as a run player. The edge rushers are obviously, as you noted, very good players. So, we have to take count as we do in every game. Where are the good players? How do we help minimize their impact on the game in any way, shape, or form? Whatever we have to do to do that sometimes it’s play calls, sometimes it’s help. There’s a lot of different ways and different things you can possibly do. There are so many things that they challenge you with on defense that you just have to be careful that you’re balanced in everything that you do and guys have to step up and make some plays and we have to help them every way we can with our play calls as well.”
You’ve got four skill position players in RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Brandon Aiyuk, WR Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle. You’ve been doing this a long time, do teams that you’ve been on come to mind where they have a similar type of foursome?
“Yeah, when I was in Indianapolis, the one thing that when I was with the Colts, they, [former Indianapolis Colts general manager] Bill Polian did a great job of when you had a quarterback and [former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator] Tom Moore, the coordinator there, like [former NFL QB] Peyton Manning, his philosophy was you had to make sure that he had people around him to get the ball to. At that point, we had [former NFL WR] Marvin Harrison, [former NFL WR] Reggie Wayne, and Reggie, his second year really wasn’t quite what he became, but he became that very quickly. At the time, [former NFL WR] Brandon Stokely was one of the elite slot receivers, and then [former NFL TE] Marcus Pollard at tight end, [former NFL TE] Kenny Dilger had been a tight end then [former NFL RB] Edgerin James as the running back. So, there were three or four really good skill position players around him that the YAC, you get the ball in their hands and they’re going to do something with it. Now, Marvin did things down the field and so, I’m not putting our guys yet in that category, but you hear other coaches talk about it, you hear other people say that our guys, when they get the ball in their hands, it’s a good group. It’s a cool group to be around and what they do with the ball in their hands. It’s fun to watch them.”
When you have this level of talent at skill positions, do you say, oh, we can do more offensively, let’s try this. Or is it just the plays you have a greater chance of success?
“Well, it can be both. You can just say, we can just run what we run, and our good players are going to make plays regardless. Or we can say, how do we put our skill players in better matchup positions? And so, I think it’s always a balancing act. It depends on so many things – the team you play, what the defense presents, what are you trying to do, so on and so forth. And so, you take advantage of things as you see them. One comes to mind, I remember this is a great one, is where the Colts were playing the Ravens. And I was actually at the Ravens at this point afterwards, and I was talking with [former NFL head coach] Rex Ryan about it, and they had a third-and-one, and Peyton threw a touchdown to Marv, like a 50-yard touchdown pass to Marvin on the third one. And when I asked Rex about it when I got there, I said, Rex, what were you thinking? He went and cover zero. He goes, well, they never threw the ball in that situation on third and one when they put those personnel people, but Peyton saw that they were in cover zero, so he checked to a play and hit Marvin Harrison because he knew he could take advantage of something the defense gave him. So sometimes it’s just that. You have skilled players and you see something that you can take advantage of, and you do it that way as well.”
Colton McKivitz was saying yesterday that after Denver Broncos OL Mike McGlinchey had left, he had a conversation with you and you basically told him now you prepare like a starter, carry yourself like a starter. Have you seen that in him from day one?
“Yes and he still has to go through the bumps and bruises of, okay, I maybe don’t have as good a game, but I’m still the starter. I don’t have as good a quarter, a rep, hey, dust yourself off, let’s go, let’s go, next play because you’re the guy and we need you to play well the next play. And that was what I wanted him to know. He was the starter. It was time to stop thinking of yourself as the guy that came up back through the practice squad and all that he’s done to accomplish where he is today. And I just wanted to have the confidence to know that he is that guy and he has carried himself that way. And you carry yourself that way though, basically, not because you’re going make yourself carry yourself that way by performing, being consistent every day, showing up every day, doing what you’re supposed to do on the field, doing what you’re supposed to do in the meeting room, doing what you’re supposed to do in the weight room. All the things that guys are supposed to do to be a starter, be a pro, be the right kind of guy, be on time, do everything right, be a leader, help the young guys. All those things that he does, he’s embraced that role, but he’s performed as well, so that’s helped. And hopefully going into Week One, this performance, it hasn’t been a real game yet. So now we get to see what we’re made of.”
What’s the confidence level like for a guy like him when he knows I’m going to be one-on-one on this rep against Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J. Watt without any help? Do you see just the confidence in him ready for that?
“Oh, I’m sure he is. Like any other guy would be, you get a lump in your throat, you know it’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be a full day of work and I’ve seen Trent Williams get it. I mean, and Trent didn’t think – I remember Trent’s first game, he didn’t think he was going to get that feeling. Then he met [former NFL DL] DeMarcus Ware on opening day and realized, holy crap, this is a whole different thing than what I thought. And for the whole game, he hung on and his eyes were as big as could be and like I am so far out of my element right now, and that was Trent Williams day one. And you ask him about it, DeMarcus Ware in Washington, and Trent was like, holy crap, this is something else. So, I can imagine Colton – now the good thing for Colton is, Colton has played that Week 17 game against [Buffalo Bills LB] Von Miller. And yeah, there were some not-so-good plays, but there were some really good plays down the stretch as well. And he has had some meaningful reps for us over the first part of his career. So, while it’s going to be a challenge as a starter, and I know it’s a great player on defense and we give him all props, and Colton obviously I’m sure is going to feel it, I’m going to feel it for him if he’s not feeling it. But I know we prepare for things like this and we go against really good players in practice all the time. And we talk about guys like this, and the guys spend a great deal of time studying and looking at how do we best manage a player like this? And then how do we help them as coaches as well?
The team hasn’t gotten off to great starts in in recent seasons. Just wondering if that’s been discussed in recent weeks and there’s been any sort of diagnosis as to why that might’ve been?
“It’s hard to put your finger on why it has been what it’s been. I don’t know. I really don’t. This team, we’ve prepared well this camp. Last year, we had a young starting quarterback, the weather and then it was just some ups and downs early, then injuries to the positions. [Las Vegas Raiders QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] takes over after the injury. He hadn’t done anything in training, so there were a lot of reasons last year. Every year there’s going to be an excuse. But then, we haven’t played well since 2019 when we started 8-0 early in the season. And I don’t know why that is. You could look to the last time we played Pittsburgh, I think we had five turnovers, and we still found a way to win that game at the end when they fumbled back to us at the end of the game and we end up kicking the game-winner. I mean, we could’ve lost some games that stretch. It has obviously been discussed. You don’t want to come out of the gate slow. You love coming out and building that cushion early in the season. Heck, all we’re trying to do is win one game just like we did last year, just like we did the year before. Come out on opening day, you hope that all your guys, your preparation, execution, everything that you’ve worked on, you can go out and do that on game day. And that’s all we’re hoping to do is start this season off right with one, just try to get one against a really, really good opponent in a really tough atmosphere.”
How has RB Elijah Mitchell looked since coming back from that groin strain? Do you find it difficult to get all your running backs touches right now, especially after having good camps with RB Jordan Mason and RB Tyrion Davis-Price?
“Yeah, every time Elijah shows up it’s great because it’s like he’s never missed a beat. So, when he’s out there you’re like, ‘Ah, it’s so good to have him back out there.’ We’ve talked about him when Trent in the one game where he started running, he could tell it was not [RB] Christian [McCaffrey] running the ball anymore, just by the physicality of the run. And it is tough because you have all these guys that can contribute, but they all have a role, they all have a place. Obviously, Christian is the lead dog, and Elijah will get his carries. And if JP and the other guys get a chance to get in there, it’s nice to have them. As you know throughout this thing, you’re always going to need guys. So, whether they’re all available and they all may not get touches right away, at some point they will.”
Who is the third tackle? Is it OL Jaylon Moore? Is it OL Matt Pryor? Does it depend on which side? How do you have them slated?
“Yeah, right now it’s still to be discussed going into who we dress and stuff right now. It’d be right and left. We did it last year with Colton and Jaylon last year as well. So right now, it’s right and left. They’ve both done a good job and they’re both more comfortable on those sides. But I’ve started swinging them and we’ve been starting to work both sides in practice in case the time does come that we’ve got to make a decision on one of them. Maybe we only dress one swing tackle and maybe we dress other guys inside. It just may be based on the health of the rest of the offensive line. So right now, it’s right and left.”
RB Christian McCaffrey came in and hit the ground running last year, but with a full offseason, do you see a lot of difference in how he’s approaching the game now? More confidence in the system?
“Oh, he’s awesome. He came here last year mid-season and obviously the shock of getting traded, a whole different system. He shows up here, we hand him the football right away and he just hadn’t been in the system. And we talked about it last year, how he talks about how much we coached him. He never, as a runner, runners don’t get coached a lot. They get coached in this offense, what they’re supposed to read, what they’re supposed to see, how they’re supposed to press it. And obviously Christian does this thing too because he’s a great runner and has instincts and feel. Now he understands all those things, he understands the plays. We went through a whole offseason of him understanding what we’re trying to accomplish with this play, when we toss him the ball in this way, when we hand him the ball, how he’s used to set up the blocks, what we’re thinking up front. He didn’t know those things. Other places he’d been, hadn’t really talked much about it from my understanding. I’m not saying they did or didn’t, that’s what he told me. So, him being able to understand how things happen, as you’ve seen sometimes it’s with some of the plays that [head coach] Kyle’s [Shanahan] designed through the years. There’s some decent-sized holes. They just kind of show up and it’s by design. Well, when you’re a runner that hasn’t seen that, it’s like ‘You don’t want me to run there right now?’ No, you got to wait and then you can run there because there’s other things that have to happen to play. Little things like that happen to him throughout. This year it’s not like that man. He’s so on it and still learning and still wanting to be better. He is just so hard on himself in a positive way that he’s always wanting to make sure he gets it exactly right. And that trickles down now to all the rest of the backs and he’s just a great guy to have on the team. And he has made huge strides as much as a guy as talented as Christian can make. He’s made huge strides this year.”