Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster Press Conference

Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Chris Foerster

Press Conference – May 29, 2024

San Francisco 49ers

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What did you like about OL Dominick Puni, your new guard?

“Dom, on tape, was a little different than [OL] Colton [McKivitz]. In other words, you didn’t see a lot on tape that was what we do. But you saw in his testing, and you saw glimpses of it on tape. He is one of those guys that, we’ve talked about a lot of times, where you look at him and you’d say, ‘Gosh, is that guy for you?’ We drafted [OL Aaron] Banks and it was the same way. You would go, ‘Gosh, this is a big old guard from Notre Dame. Is he really going to fit?’ But then you watch him run some screens and you see some things and go, ‘Oh yeah, if we start doing it every day.’ So, this is a big guy that has some size. He also has some quickness, some power. He’s not the prototypical little quick guy, he is a guy that’s got the size range and length. One of those guys that will be holed up on third down, he was a very good pass blocker in college, that should translate to our game. And then, getting him to do our run game is going to be his biggest adjustment. So just all the traits that we need in our system. It didn’t jump off the tape, but it was there.”


Can you talk about all the traits that you need in your system? Everyone every year expects you guys to invest early in the draft on offensive linemen. How much is that a part of you trying to project these guys or maybe why you haven’t invested first or second round picks as often?

“That’s for [President of Football Operations and General Manager] John [Lynch] and [Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan] for the most part. This is my personal opinion, if they ask me, invest in guys that touch the ball, guys that can touch the ball and score touchdowns. And then there’s a range of guys, second, third, fourth round, fifth round even, that we will find starting offensive linemen in. At some point can you draft them? Yeah, you draft [OL] Trent Williams. You pick a draft where you’re getting a difference maker. But there’s guys that can make a difference, that touch the ball, well into the second, third, fourth rounds, or second and third rounds, at least. And definitely in the first round. That guy that touches the ball, it makes a huge difference in the game. The right guard makes a difference, we’ve talked about it before, but that’s where we’re able to find fourth and fifth round draft picks. How dominant is the difference between pick 34 versus pick 54, in offensive line play? And that’s what you’re trying to balance all the time. So, will we draft the best available player, all those types of things? Definitely will. And were we possibly ready to draft guys higher in the draft? Yes. But if there’s somebody that can touch the ball and make plays, in my opinion, if you ask me, ‘Chris, do you want him?’ I want the guy that touches the ball, for me. Because I think we can develop those players much more readily and have developed those players through the times because we do have specific things that we’re looking for. We know what we’re looking for through the course of time. That’s the advantage of being together with Kyle for so long that we kind of can pigeonhole these guys. Are we always right? Heck no, we’re not always right and nobody is on anything. Could you put five first rounders across the front? I don’t know that we have to, to have success. And it hasn’t been that case as far as running the football and protecting the quarterback. We don’t have five first rounders, so there’s always going to be that. But, the fact that you can throw a short pass to [WR] Deebo [Samuel], even though the right tackle’s getting beat, it ends up being a 60-yard touchdown. So yeah, the right tackle blocks somebody, but if the guy gets tackled at five yards, you don’t have the 60-yard touchdown. ‘Boy that right tackle did a great job.’ What’s it matter if the guy touching the ball can’t take it to the house? So, there’s the trade off and you’re constantly playing that game.”


How much of that belief, for you, is kind of rooted in the system? And also how much is just rooted in the fact that you’ve been doing this a long time?

“I’m telling you, I did it when I got to Baltimore. A good friend of mine, Jed Fish, who is the head coach at the University of Washington now, he and I were talking, and he was a quality control guy in Baltimore. New England was, this was mid 2004 or 2005 whatever it was, they were the rage. And I said, ‘Go watch that offensive line and just tell me how good they are.’ And he started looking at it, he goes, ‘My gosh, he just put five X’s on the board, nondescript circled them and said, it doesn’t matter who those five are, as long as [Former New England Patriots QB Tom Brady] 12 is the quarterback, and he’s throwing it to [Former New England Patriots WR] Randy Moss, [Former New England Patriots WR] Wes Walker and those guys, [Former New England Patriots WR Julian] Edelman,’ he says ‘it doesn’t matter.’ And it didn’t. You just saw that they did an excellent job. [Former New England Patriots Offensive Line and Assistant Head Coach] Dante [Scarnecchia] did a great job of coaching them. They had a system that they believed in, and they got the ball to the people that could do things with the football. And he’s like, ‘I get it.’ Now, there’s a line, and this is what I always say with offensive line play, and this is a cool discussion, I love this discussion, there’s a line below which that with offensive line play that if you just drop a little bit below it, it’s a gaping hole. All of a sudden, you’re like, ‘He can’t block anybody.’ And now we got a major problem. But as long as they’re at that line and just above it, you can survive it and you can take care of them. We’ve got ways with our system. We can chip, we can do all sorts of things to help guys. Slide lines, double team, the best rusher on the team. There are so many mechanisms to help alignment. If a guy can’t get open, if a guy can’t catch the ball and run, that’s where we have a problem. But in offensive line play, you have to be careful. You have to have those 6, 7, 8 guys that are just at that line or above. And that’s the challenge. Where’s that line in the draft? Is it the third round, second round, fourth round, fifth? When’s that line where all of a sudden, the tackles have dried up, the guards have dried up? Now you’re talking about drafting backup players, which is fine, they’re backup players. But they’re not going to be long-term starters for your team. And that’s the challenge for me. Because eventually the guys that can run and score touchdowns run out. They’re not there anymore. So, you have to fight those quality starters at other positions. And you have to be right, because oftentimes when you draft a lineman in the fourth or fifth round, there might be a guy that could come in immediately and contribute on special teams, contribute and be a backup linebacker, safety. And that’s where, so you say, ‘Okay, we didn’t drive him first or second. We got to take somebody in the fourth round here because I got five guys, got five holes to fill.’”


Who was a guy that you, through the years, have said “This is a backup guy that we just drafted” who then turned out to be really, really good?

“I have to think back. That turned out to be good?”


Yeah, that you thought was “Eh” at first.

“I don’t know if anybody comes to mind off hand. I’d have to think for a minute here. I try to stay out away from the current roster. You know what I’m saying? So, I’m going back years before that and no. There were probably guys that were on the team that I may have labeled as backups when we got there and then they ended up projecting beyond it. But I can’t think of any offhand.”


Last year, you were optimistic that OL Ben Bartch would take another step from his ACL injury. Are you seeing that this offseason?

“A hundred percent. In fact, thanks for reminding me. I forgot he had the ACL. That’s why it was kind of that little bit of a delay. And he got back in there this year, and he has this spring, he’s taken a step. Now, we’re playing in shorts. But his initial – he’s hurt it, he got away from it, he’s come back and he’s looked very, very good at center and guard. And we’ll see when we get the pads on, if he’s able to play with a little more anchor, a little more strength and the things. But right now, he looks like he’s been here for three or four years and has fit in very well. We’re happy with Ben.”


What do you like about OL Drake Nugent?

“Nugent is a good guy. Okay Nugent, here’s a good story. His dad and I played college football together. He was the quarterback; I was the center, so we had a very special relationship. The dad though, his name is Terry. Drake, we watched him at Michigan. He was at Stanford. We looked at all the Michigan linemen and we got to the end of the draft. We got to the week before the draft, we started looking at the guys that we think are going to be drafted sixth, seventh, or not be drafted at all. He fits our style. He is the more undersized, quick guy that plays with a lot of leverage and things like that, that may not be big enough. May not quite be the prototypical starter guy. But he does have some of those traits that that we really like, and he fits our system really well. That’s what we saw. Even though Michigan really didn’t highlight outside zone at all. PFF has this thing where they categorize the play by outside, inside, and gap scheme. They had like, 17 outside zones the whole season, and they ran the crap out of the ball. So, it was hard. But you had to look at his testing, and we did like him a lot. Really good kid. And, and personally because knowing the dad, knowing the family, I felt really good about the character of the kid as well. So, we liked that as well.”


What have he’s seen from RB Isaac Guerendo? Obviously, it’s really early.

“Very early. Really smooth, fluid runner like we saw in college. I think he’s going to be a good pass receiver but still early to tell. Those backs are rotating through pretty good. They’re all doing a nice job right now. I really liked the back when we were looking at the backs. He was a guy that really stood out to me as, even though he didn’t play all the time you saw the flashes, you saw the speed. And that’s a dimension that we’re looking to add to our backfield. Not that [RB] Christian’s [McCaffrey] not fast. Christian would kill me if I said he wasn’t fast enough. He’s plenty fast enough. But you’re always trying to add one more big hit element.”


OL Dominick Puni can play a bunch of spots. Is there a spot that he’s more advanced in any of the five spots?

“He’s played guard and tackle, I think. I don’t know, he might’ve even played center at some point, but he’s built to be a guard. Now does that not mean he won’t be our fourth tackle possibly the way the roster shakes out? Could he be our starting right guard or left? He could be a swing guard. The only thing, I’m not sure I’m going to rep him at is center, but he’s going to be able to play left guard, left tackle, right guard, right tackle. We’ll primarily work him at right guard right now. That’s a place we felt we could get some competition going and work at that spot. But he easily could be the fourth tackle, third. He could work in anywhere there. He’s got ability to play all. He’s best suited to guard though. You never know what happens. We’ll see how it plays out.”


At left tackle, have you kept in touch with T Trent Williams at all in the last few months? How do you how do you like how OL Jaylon Moore and OL Brandon Parker are looking?

“Yeah, Trent always we stay in touch a little bit. His offseasons are his offseasons. He takes care of himself, always comes back in good shape. It’s all voluntary. I’ve learned a long time ago to never be upset whether a guy’s here or not. It’s voluntary. They put the V word in front of it, is what it is. It’s voluntary. So how can I get mad when a guy doesn’t come when it’s voluntary? Right? So, he works hard. He always comes back and is a good player, in good shape. [T] Jaylon Moore, he always progresses. If you guys know Jaylon or met Jaylon or talked to him at all, he is a very soft-spoken, very even keeled guy. But yet, every year he just comes back a little bit better, a little bit better, a little bit better. I’m really impressed with how he’s doing this year. He’s got to dig in. As I said, he’s got the most thankless job in the world, right? He spends the whole offseason, the whole preseason being our starting left tackle. It precludes him from competing at right guard or right tackle because somebody has to go play our left tackle spot and be there when [QB Brock] Purdy’s in the game or when we’re trying to get things going. So, he’s kind of locked into that perennial backup role. But then you never know, hopefully nothing happens. But if something does, he’s ready to go. And he’s really proven every year to embrace more. And I really love Jaylon. I love what he does. He’s not going to jump off the screen at you. He’s not going to jump off personality wise, but I love the guy, great guy. He has improved every year.”


Your rookie offensive linemen had really fast short shuttle times. How big of a point of emphasis was that in meeting rooms prior to the Draft? Have you seen some of that translate on the field already? 

“Yeah, that was interesting. I know somebody sent it to me. I think whoever put out there, whatever, I don’t have any of those social media things, but somebody sent it to me, and I saw it and said, ‘that’s cool.’ But I think it’s more of the traits. We see the traits in the player, and it just so happens to translate. Now, a short shuttle to me is a science. Short shuttle, you can train the kid to run a short shuttle. There’s a thing to the feet, the hands. I don’t know what it is, but literally they can just by training it properly, knock time off it, that doesn’t demonstrate as much of their core skills, right? The three-cone drill has a little harder. It doesn’t matter how technical you are. There’s so much start and stop and weaving. I go a little bit more on the three-cone personally. But it’s funny that the short shuttle, it obviously must have some carryover because these things that I talked about that we see on tape that you don’t see our plays, but you see the traits of the player. It must be something that’s good in the short shuttle as well. So, it wasn’t something we pinpointed. I’ve been with a lot of personnel people that go like, look, if an offensive lineman doesn’t have a short shuttle like this, we’re not taking them. Or if a tight end doesn’t have a 20 of this or a three-cone or vertical jump, they won’t take them because over time that’s what analytics does. They just chart on a graph and say, ‘look, these guys that are under this number or above this number don’t make it.’ And so, they say, ‘why would we take them because odds are they don’t make it.’ That’s a little too analytical, but it’s a good jump off spot to say, boy, they better show some other things to say they’re going to. So that was an interesting stat. It makes me look at it a little bit. It’s just interesting to see how it showed up. It was cool.”


What do you need to see from whether it’s OL Spencer Burford or Puni, it seems like that right guard position’s going to create a pretty interesting competition. What do you need to see from Burford or Puni or anyone else to win that spot?

“The offensive line play, we’ve talked about it before, consistency, talent. All this ability in the world, but when it comes down to the things happening quickly, being consistent, play in and play out, understanding the offense, how the defense plays it. Every little intricate piece of this thing, it’s not just about pass blocking and run blocking. There’s so much that goes into it that you just miss a little detail, a little adjustment. And a lot of times it’s things that come up that I can’t cover. You have to understand and embrace the concept of the play or whatever we’re doing. So, to know that, ‘oh guys, but if I follow my rules, this is where it takes me.’ And that’s what we’re looking for. That’s one of the things that all these guys we took this year and one of the things John spoke about it probably to you guys in the Draft. So, what he said is ‘look’ he goes, ‘we found that with offensive linemen that that what it takes, the character, the intelligence, all those things.’ Not saying one of our guys don’t have it, but those picks after those first couple talent rounds, the guys are just playing because of sure ability and talent. Those guys in the offensive line, they got to have that thing, that thing that they can figure it out. At some point you don’t make it as a player, you coach as an offensive lineman because the game, you understand the game, you’re intrigued by the game. It’s cool to coach it, teach the little pieces of it and all that stuff like that. And that’s what these guys have to be, they literally have to be coaches on the field. And so sometimes the further away you get from the ball, the tackles, they have to have a little bit less of it. And that’s what analytics has found out. That is if we start analyzing that character, those character traits, those intelligent traits that we’ve kind of found out that as you go with offensive line, it tends to be a little bit more leans that direction now is that everybody is that. I don’t know how that works for every other team in the league, but for us, those types of guys. So that’s what we’re looking for in that position. That position right now. That’s how a guy like [OL Jon] Feliciano played with just a little more consistency. And was it a lot? I said no. When somebody said how, Spencer came to me when we didn’t put him back in the lineup, he goes, ‘coach, am I playing?’ I said, ‘no, but it’s two or three plays. It’s just two, it’s not many.’ Everybody else is grading here and you’re just, those two or three plays a game and you just don’t know when they’re going to show up and how they’re going to show up. And so those two or three plays are just like, ‘gosh, we just got to get those two or three plays better.’ We’re just looking for that consistency. Maybe it comes from Spencer this year. Obviously, he’s the most talented of the players. I think he’s as talented or more than Puni. Puni will push that from that. And Jon’s just a guy that is a veteran, good player that knows how to get it done. Very savvy, good vet player. But these talented guys, when they figure it out and that’s what you keep hoping. So maybe it comes from Spence, maybe it comes from Puni, maybe it comes from somebody else. I don’t know where it comes from. But we’re hoping we can get just a little more consistent play out of that position.”