Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster
Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Chris Foerster
Press Conference – October 20, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
When you install the game plan this week with uncertainty at running back, does it make any difference as far as how you approach the week when RB Christian McCaffrey is questionable?
“I don’t think it does. I think that you still have to attack schematically first and foremost. You look at what’s good schematically and you say, okay, these things are good schematically, then who best suits it. Some things could be good schematically that aren’t great, and are maybe better suited for Christian, but at the end of the day, you’re still going to try and attack the defenses best you see and try and take advantage of the scheme they present and what’s the best runs against the best defenses.”
If T Trent Williams is not ready to go, I don’t think OL Jaylon Moore started since last year when he played Carolina and Atlanta. How can you tell how much he’s progressed since then and if he’s ready?
“Well, there’s things, every single player through the course of the season and the offseason, there’s things that you focus to work on and you see whether that guy’s working on improving on those things in practice. The good thing for Jaylon is he has had a lot of work when Trent had his vet days during camp and doesn’t play in the preseason. So, Jaylon does get to play and you do get to see if he’s progressed and we think Jaylon has progressed. I mean, you’ve heard me say in here a lot, that you don’t know until you play in the games exactly how far, but he has improved on some things. It’s been good to watch him do that and hope that. If he does get pressed into duty again on Monday night, then we’ll be able to see some improvement.”
Did the Browns react differently to what you thought you were going to get with their safeties to some of the motions that you got? And, if so, what was the adjustment?
“Well, there’s always what they show on tape and then they showed a little bit of all of it. And then all of a sudden, they decide they’re going to do something in our game and then they do that something. So, maybe it’s a little bit different. At the end of the day, you just roll with it and what it is because you’ve seen it before. It’s just, you don’t know. For example, we could practice a little bit of all of it because you think, oh, they could do this, they might do this, they’ve usually done this. But with us, it’s always a guessing game. So when you get in there, it’s something we’ve seen before. Something we did work on and something that turned the game was not a huge adjustment, but just something we had to inform everybody, hey guys, we practiced this all week. We thought it would be more of this. And it ended up being something else.”
Trent Williams said the other night that he stayed in the game because he didn’t want to put that pressure on Jaylon Moore to go against Cleveland DE Myles Garrett. What is that fine line of doing what’s best for the team and also saving Trent from himself?
“I just think it comes back to, you check with the training staff and they determine whether the injury – they can do testing and things to see if the injury is such that you can play. Then you put it back on the player, say, hey, it’s, it appears that you’re strong enough, the ankle’s in good enough condition. He’s like, okay. And then you say to the player, okay, go out and do it. He goes out there and you keep an eye on him and you say, eh, it doesn’t look good, or it does look good or it looks okay and you check with the player, say, how you doing? I’m doing fine. You know, it’s getting a little like this. Yeah, I’m okay. I think I can do it. Then as the coach, eventually you may have to make the decision, say he’s doing well enough to stay in the game or he is not. It’s a group decision and ultimately it comes back to the player on the field. Trent was very conscious of it because if you go back to, I don’t remember when we played the Rams in the championship game, what year that was, and he played on the high ankle sprain, post-game he said that I probably should have let [OL] Colton [McKivitz] play that game. And so, he was aware of that, understanding that he could do what he could do. But I’ve been with plenty of players before, that same thing, they’ve had an injury, they felt a certain way, not a hundred percent, but not so much that they would stay out of a game. They’ve played a lot of games in that condition and so, they know whether they can do it or not. You have to trust them. And then the more you have a relationship with the player, the more you can then say, yeah, I got you, but you need to come stand on the sideline with me.”
How did the offense change when Christian McCaffrey wasn’t on the field in terms of the coverages you guys faced?
“I think they stayed pretty much the same. I think they had a plan for us and what they decided to do with Christian was just fine to keep doing going forward. I don’t think it was something they would’ve had to change too much with because they had a good plan and it wasn’t like it gave away much else. So, it’s kind of a coverage they always play and then whether they can help with Christian or not. That’s a very general and broad statement because there’s a lot of different things that they can do. But it didn’t change, I don’t think a whole lot. Again, coverages, and how they were handling Christian at that point, we weren’t far enough into it for me to really be able to tell. But it didn’t change much.”
If he’s not available, how much of it will be a two back approach or riding the hot hand? How do you balance that?
“I think it still just goes back to, we knew who the next back in the game was. [RB Jordan Mason] J.P. was going to be the next guy in the game, and then [RB] Elijah [Mitchell] was going to play some. And then it is just a matter of as you get a feel of how they’re rolling, what we’re doing, what we’re trying to get done. They both have strengths and weaknesses, probably one a little bit towards the run, another a little bit towards the pass. And so, you want to be able to balance that out, if it’s becoming a throw game, it’s becoming a run game, who’s going to be on a third down since Christian’s not going to be? Who’s going to be in on first and second? So that’s more of it than the hot hand thing. Obviously, if a guy’s feeling it and pounding up in there, that hot hand lasts. You give them about three carries in a row and you’re like, yeah, he needs to get out for a bit here and put somebody else in. So, it can go either way. But both guys, you kind of play to their strengths.”
You guys had OL Nick Zakelj up this last game. What prompted that?
“Well, [OL Aaron] Banks had the shoulder at the end of the last game and was questionable. I mean, he was fine last week, he went through practice and seemed to be great, but I was concerned. All of a sudden when you end up with [OL Jon] Feliciano in the game, your backup center’s playing, which means your backup center could then get hurt and then your third center’s more of an emergency plan. So, this way, we have three centers up and maybe going forward as the season wears on and guys are dinged up, unless we’re a hundred percent healthy that may be the way to go. But again, it depends on the tackle health, and when your tackle health is down, maybe we need four tackles. So every week you have to evaluate it. And I think once there’s an injury to one of the two spots, you have to lean heavier on that.”
When you watch the film, the defenses want to stop the run game. Based on what you’ve seen from Minnesota on film, what do you expect to see? How will they be the same? Will they be different?
“Yeah. The thing about the defenses today, a lot of defenses and even Cleveland who tends to be a pretty – you kind of know what they’re going to be in changed up a little bit. These guys can do a lot of different things. The six on the line to five on the line, five on the line, on a nickel four, four down nickel still get five on the line. Four down pressure, I mean, deep to short where they line up deep and then they come down late in the coverage so you’re not sure whether it’s going to be a hard eight-man front or seven-man front or not. So these guys today, there’s just a lot of different variations. And so however they’ve decided to stack up and try and stop your running game, that’s what you have to see as the game progresses because they have a lot of different ways to do it. Do I see them being a heavy six-man line? I don’t know. That’s not what they’ve been to this point, but it doesn’t mean they won’t. When [Browns defensive coordinator] Jim Schwartz played us when he was there as a consultant in Tennessee when we played them a couple years back, in the second half of that game they played us nickel to our 21 personnel almost the whole game. And that is about what they did in this past game to us as well. For whatever the reasons they decided to do it. And you would think that wouldn’t be as good a way to stop the run, but they had other reasons they felt to choose to get nickel to do it and they did a nice job. So, there’s just, you don’t know what it’s going to be. And that’s always the challenge every week and with us, it is. We do a lot of different things that challenge defenses to be on point – not to be on point, they have to be on point every week, but there’s just a lot they have to cover with the motions and where we align the fullbacks and so how they’re going to do that, how they decide within their scheme and package, it’s really difficult always to see. So, you have to get in the game and start rolling with it. And anymore, it’s not that I don’t think [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] is ever like, oh, well, that’s shocking, or I said, that’s what they’re going to do to try to stop us. Here are the things that we go to. And that’s been the good thing over time. Shoot, in 2019, I remember we had 99 snaps of nickel to 21 personnel. That was unheard of. I don’t think we probably had nine snaps of nickel in the 10 years before 2019. And then all of a sudden that became a way to play us, for whatever the reasons defenses decided to do it. And so then you have to start saying, okay, well shoot, we have to adjust to this and start working on how we play nickel to 21. And that didn’t used to be the way it was. And now it’s become nickel’s a huge piece of everything, 21, 12. You see it all over the place.”
Why is it an effective counter?
“Effective or not, I think it’s from a defensive perspective, it becomes things like you know what coverages can you play? I think it’s coverage based as much as anything else. I don’t think it has to do with formations. All of a sudden, when you’re going to take fullbacks and halfbacks and line them outside and play them as receivers, some of your coverage adjustments may involve linebackers breaking the box. What are we doing with that? Why not put a nickel back in a game? And it fits more with these guys are more Xs out there, spots on the field, as opposed to a fullback, a tight end and then the linebackers having to adjust. I’m not a defensive coach, but I think there’s a whole lot that goes into it. And that’s where I think the nickel becomes a little bit, I don’t want to say easier, but it does. And in those nickel guys and those safeties have to be going to be good in the run game because that’s what you would think, oh, they’re going to give up a little bit in the run game, but shoot, if they’re shooting their guns and in the gaps and playing hard, it’s hard to block them as well.”
One trend is that defenses are rushing quarterbacks with smaller guys more and more, and the Minnesota Vikings use S Josh Matellus quite a bit off the nickel as a blitzer. How challenging is that for your guys to block smaller bodied guys, nickels, corners, that kind of thing?
“Well, they are faster. So, it does create an issue that if there’s too much space, sometimes it’s hard to get your hands on them. And then other times it becomes a matter of just if you do get your hands on them, they’re easier to block because they don’t have an array of pass rush moves usually. One of the best pass rushers ever was [former NFL DB] Charles Woodson. Not only was he a good rusher, I mean, you’re talking about these elusive fast guys, but he had moves. If you were a tackle, don’t think you’re just going to go out there and get your hands on this guy. He’s going to beat you with a pass rush move, an arm over, a swim, a rip or something like that. It’s not going to get as much of that, but it is a space thing. A guard’s out there and it would normally be a linebacker coming at you, you’re judging of when you come off a block to pick him up. It’s a little bit different because the guy’s faster. So it’s a little bit of a challenge, a little less of a challenge than if you get your hands on him. It is, but I think the littler guys blitzing or coming from different directions becomes a little bit more of a you know, a disguise you’re not expecting it type of thing. And that might be what’s happening.”