How impressed were you with Rashan Gary and what kind of progression have you seen from him just from week one to week two?
“It’s been very good, very outstanding. Tough guy. He’s been—he got a finger dislocated about the first week of practice and they took him in, put him under the x-ray, and the trainer was like, ‘Man, what is that?’ or something to that effect, and Rashan was like, ‘That’s football.’ Taped it up and went back out. Another time he was cramping and I took him out of practice, and then about six plays later saw he was back in there. He’s really good like that. Real football player. Doing a great job. Played the whole game today, looked like, most of it.
“And along those lines I felt the lines really took care of business today. That was something we felt was gonna be necessary and could get accomplished. Wouldn’t call it dominating but it was—took care of business, both the offensive an defensive lines. Did a very good job.”
Just asked Wilton about [how] in week one he didn’t really get hit; barely touched. Today he did get hit a few times, sacked a couple times. Just as a quarterback, what can that do for you? He said it’s not like he wants to get hit all the time, but it kind of gets him in the mode. Curious your thoughts on that.
“I thought, first of all, quarterback throws for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, that’s a great performance. Would not be going out on a limb to say he’s probably going to be our offensive player of the week, of the game. Had some good courage plays where he had to stand in the pocket and either a blitzer or a rusher was coming. Even made an improv play, improvise and adjust, to kick it out to Poggi in the flat. Thought that was a smart play. Hit two post routes. I mean, the hardest routes to hit, in my opinion. I played the position and watched for all my life [and] it’s a hard route to hit, and both Chesson made a great catch and so did Darboh for a touchdown. For the quarterback to hit those, that’s the toughest route, I think.
“And also the backs. I thought the backs--right from the get-go our backs were getting hit. Big hits and really good formed-up tackles by UCF and they hung onto the ball. It was a hard-hitting game all the way through, and also feel like we’re building up a callus with our team. Didn’t come out of this game with any injuries. And we delivered some blows, too. It was a good, real football game.”
How do you balance getting a running back in a rhythm versus keeping him fresh and getting other guys carries?
“Um…by getting him in there every couple. Today we were rotating backs. De’Veon had some unbelievable runs, especially the one drive—I think we ended up getting a field goal out of it—breaking tackles and pickings up the first downs. Two first downs he picked up by extra effort, and running with the ball, getting hit, three, four, five hits on the same play. Always thought it was smart to put a fresh back in when you have a run like that. But I thought he was exceptional. There were definitely drives we don’t get points on the board without the extra effort he was making out there.”
What’s your concern level on the quarterback scrambles, and is that something that’s pretty easy to clean up?
“Yeah, we made the adjustment in the second half. We were getting behind the quarterback. We’ve got to either retrace or spin back into the lane to keep the quarterback from leaving the pocket and getting all those rushing yards that they got. I thought Don and the staff did a nice job of making adjustments in the second half.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams, Speight under pressure (from the opposition), a minor injury update, and the wonder of the MRI from a non-doctor’s perspective]
What did you think of the secondary and how they played?
“I was happy with the group as a whole with the way they played. I thought Delano Hill had a good game. Obviously had an interception returned for a touchdown, but he was solid in his coverage. He did a nice job. Didn’t make any mental mistakes, and I was happy with the way he played.
“Dymonte Thomas, he did a good job. He’s been a steady player for us all camp, and it was good to see it come to fruition at game time. I was happy with those two guys and then Tyree Kinnel. He came in and did a nice job. Young guy, hasn’t had much experience, but I thought he did a pretty good job coming in. And he was confident, and he helps me be confident to put him in the game when he plays the way he does. I was happy with the way they played.”
What did you have Jourdan doing on a day where he wasn’t going to play just to keep him involved? Can he pick things up from the game on the sideline?
“Well, I work more with the safeties, so I’m kind of more focused on them. I think Jourdan’s done a good job working trying to get back and he’s done a nice job with the younger guys pitching in. Him not being in there, he can give them lessons from the sideline. Having him around has been good?”
What are things that you saw during camp with Dymonte and Delano, because they’ve been essentially backups—they’ve had spot starts, but for them to take those leadership roles. Did you see a flash where they were prepared for that? It’s a different role, a different mentality, right?
“Yeah, I mean, being a starter, a lot of times you’ve got to lead by example. I thought they’ve done an excellent job coming to work every day, bringing their lunch box, and just having a workman’s mentality. Delano, all camp he was one of the leaders as far as reps in practice. And just leading by example, I think, sets the tone for the young guys. We’ve got a lot of young guys in the secondary and they’re learning from them and the example they provide on a day-to-day basis.”
Khaleke’s [Hudson] still a safety, correct?
Jim had spoken highly of Khaleke, I remember, on national signing day and since then. What have you seen out of him? How is he adjusting and keeping up with the older guys?
“Yeah, Khaleke came in as a freshman, didn’t know much. Played running back in high school, kind of an option running back, and you could see the maturity that he has for a young guy coming in. He’s really learned a lot over the last couple weeks. I’ve been happy with his progression from where he started to where he is now. Just got to keep going every day, getting better, and just learning the game, the safety position. But he’s done a nice job so far. I’ve been happy with his progression.”
[After THE JUMP: on Hudson, Metellus, tempo, and mechanics]
Getting any sleep?
“The usual in-season sleep, right?”
How much is that?
“Oh…we get a good amount of sleep. Enough to be full-go the next day. Who’s starting us off today?”
What were your thoughts of Wilton in the first game?
“I was real happy with the way he played. I don’t think you could have asked for too much better. We missed three throws out of the 13 we attempted. One of them was I think a jump ball or up for grabs for Amara, which he probably underthrew just a little bit, and then one of them was-kind of got turned around on a flat route that he threw. And then the first play of the game, which he rushed and Jake really didn’t run a great route. Ball never should have been thrown at that point in time, but other than that made all the right decisions.
“Threw some beautiful balls. Hit, I think, 11 different receivers or something to that effect. Played smart, played good. You know, that a tough deal [when] your first throw is an interception and then the next time you throw you’re on the minus-seven yard line or whatever it was. Threw that slant and did a great job.”
He made a point of saying how much Jim almost laughed off the first one, said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it.’ How do coaches make the decision between hard coaching and just giving a guy confidence there?
“What I was always—kind of the school that I was from was you coach them as hard as you want on Sunday-Friday, and then on Saturday, I mean, you’ve got to be their advocate on gameday because they’re the only ones that are really going through the war on that gameday situation. To second guess and to question things on gameday, to be overly critical on gameday, I don’t know where the value is.
“Sunday we go into the film review or Monday and look through it and make all the corrections necessary. Our job at that point in time is really to support them and try to give them the best chance to succeed.”
What are the things that set him apart and how hard a decision was that?
“It’s a decision that went down to the end. The way I described it to the quarterbacks was Wilton kind of had the pole position after spring. He kind of had a little bit of an edge, and the race started and the green flag was waved and people were trying to pass people but he just kind of never got passed. He never got passed. He just continued to play better. And Coach Harbaugh always says iron sharpens iron. I think what happened was as John and Shane started playing better so did Wilton, and it was just one of those deals where nobody lost the job. Wilton just, going into the opening day, won the job.”
Grant Perry said Wilton really prepared for this job, studied film, and kind of slipped himself under Jake Rudock’s wing. How did that preparation give Wilton an edge in that competition?
“I think they all did that, to be honest. I mean, John lived with Jake all last year, so John knew exactly how Jake prepared. Shane is constantly up here. You can always see Shane watching film and studying. Wilton has a quiet way about himself. Doesn’t really go out on the forefront and tell you what he does, but he worked very hard at it.
“He’s very prepared. I think that has a lot to do with it. You obviously want to show up and be ready to execute and be ready to understand the plays that are being called and call them fast, get out of the huddle quick and let everybody know that you know the offense.”
[After THE JUMP: the mentality of and expectations for every backup QB, team speed, upgraded weapons, and Speight’s development]
Grant Newsome and Grant Perry
Grant Newsome, there was a time where it seemed like you were battling for that left tackle spot. Seemed like you made the most of it. Assess your play on Saturday.
“I thought it was definitely a good start. Obviously there’s a lot to improve. I think I’ll see that when I go over the film with Coach Drevno. So definitely a lot of areas to improve on, but it was good to get out there and get my first start under my belt.”
What did you feel you did best?
“I thought as on offense we just moved the ball really well. I think coming out on that second drive and moving the ball 98 yards really set the tone for the game. I think we converted pretty well on third down and made plays when we needed to.”
Can you take us through your touchdown and how much more comfortable it seemed like Wilton got as that first quarter went on.
GP: “Yeah. So when I lined up I actually thought he wasn’t going to throw to me because we got a look that we usually don’t throw to. They were in bracket coverage. I ran my route, got open, he threw a perfect ball. It was a good play.
“Just as a growth aspect, I feel like I’ve really matured. I’m feeling good in the third-spot role and just ready to get after it some more.”
How do you think Wilton progresses throughout that first half?
GP: “I think—well, obviously that first play was kind of bizarre. We all were kind of shaking our heads, but he brushed that off and he really showed that he can lead this team and he’s a winner.”
Grant Newsome, yourself and the offensive line asserted control early. The running backs especially played well with Chris [Evans] and guys like Kingston [Davis] and Karan [Higdon] getting carries. Can you assess the talent level that you guys have in the backfield and your impressions from especially a guy like Chris and what he did Saturday.
“It’s nice for us because we’ve known all camp what Chris can bring, so it was kind of funny—not funny, but great to get out on the field and let the world see what he can bring. We’ve seen that for three weeks during camp.
“It’s great as an offensive lineman. You can open up a hole and know you have multiple backs, not just one, in the backfield who, if you give them a little bit of space, will make the most of it. You saw that on a couple runs where we just gave them a little bit of space and they were able to shoot through the hole and get to the end zone.”
[Much more after THE JUMP]
This is the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series of one-on-one interviews in which I ask players to go in-depth about a certain play from last week’s game. This week I talked to Grant Perry about his touchdown catch that came on a nicely run corner route in the middle of the first quarter. Don’t remember it? Just watch the gif at the bottom of the post.
When you got to the line, what did you see?
“I actually saw a coverage that we didn’t get all week in practice. It was a bracket coverage where they had one guy outside of me and one inside of me, so pre-snap I was not expecting to get the ball. But ran a good route, Wilton saw it and lofted it right over the guy’s head. It was perfect.”
It looked like you faked the post to the inside before running the corner.
Is that something that is built into the route or are you guys allowed to improvise as you see different types of coverage?
“Yeah, we kind of just improvise on different kinds of coverage. Especially when there’s two dudes over you, you’ve got to kind of just give something one way, trick them out the other way, and then go back another way. So it’s really just about getting open. No real name to that. It’s just the art of route running.”
In the postgame press conference Coach Harbaugh said that was about as good as you can throw a corner route. As far as Wilton goes, would you say that’s one of his best-thrown routes that you saw through camp and whatnot?
“Yeah. I mean, I wasn’t surprised by it. We throw that during practice, after practice. Getting extra work, we’ll throw that route because that’s a route you run from the slot a lot. I wasn’t surprised by it. I’m sure he was very happy with the throw. Capping a 98-yard drive after an interception probably feels pretty good. Yeah, no surprise on that one there.”
You mentioned that you didn’t think you were going to get the ball. At what point did you know it was coming?
“Kind of when I broke him off outside and stepped inside. Went back to the corner and I looked back and he was trailing me, and I just saw the ball. So when the ball hit my hands I knew it came to me.”
So you turn to look as you get into the corner route?
“Yeah, step and look. Yep.”
What route would you say you’re most comfortable with and what’s your favorite route to run?
“I like running any route, to be honest. The corner route is a good route to run because you get to run deep and run away from people. Especially if it’s in the end zone. So that’s always fun. Really any route in this system is a good route to run.”
As we talked about earlier, you’re allowed to improvise here and there. Your route running is very precise; we can see that on film. What are some drills or other things you do to work on that?
“Coach Fisch, Coach Drew [Terrell], Coach Ryan [Nehlen], they put us through all these great drills. There’s a lot of cone drills we do working on cutting. There’s a tennis ball drill we do where we pick up the ball and work on getting low. And then stuff at the line of scrimmage trying to get the DB off you. Stuff like that really simulates and helps get the feel for it in the game.”
Can you talk about the kind of depth you were building on Saturday with all the guys that got in the game?
“Well, first, to start with, many players played and played well. Tremendous for morale. Guys that worked extremely hard all along just got to contribute, so it was good for our team.”
Along those same lines, in the past few years before you arrived the ‘wait until they get experience’ thing was kind of a common theme. Seventeen guys play Saturday. What has been the difference when you look at the ability to play young guys when you look at a few years ago and those young guys weren’t really getting a lot of reps?
“I can’t comment specifically about a couple years ago. Probably as you know, we talked about it. It’s a meritocracy in who plays. By your effort, by your talent you will be known. Positions on the depth chart when you go in the game, what the roles are, are based on that.”
The team struggled a little bit, maybe the first series and half, to run the football. What changed for you guys? It just seemed like all of sudden once Wilton completed that one third-down pass things just started clicking for the offensive line and clicking for the blockers on the outside. What was the difference?
“Uh…the third down, the fourth play of the game?”
Yeah, he connected on the pass but it seemed like as soon as that happened everything started working for the running game, too.
“Yeah, that was the fourth play of the game.”
Do you have any updates on Bryan Mone and Taco Charlton and if they’re going to be available this week?
“I don’t think either one will be available this week.”
If they’re not available, how does the defensive line need to regroup depth-wise and get ready for this game?
“I think Mo Hurst will return to action. Ryan Glasgow played very well in the football game. So did Chris Wormley. There’s talented players at that position. I don’t think that Bryan Mone and Taco will be out…it’s hard to say at this point. I don’t have an update on how long they’ll be out, but I don’t anticipate them playing this weekend.”
With that, you guys had Onwenu play a little bit of offense and a little bit of defense. With a couple guys out, do you think he’ll get more on defense at this point?
[After THE JUMP: even more injury updates, and Jim Harbaugh verbally assassinates a character assassin]