Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
September 24, 2020
Q: I just wanted to ask you about this 49ers run game, really the Kyle Shanahan run game. Why does it seem like no matter what running back is in there, they’re super effective?
A: It starts with, one, they’re well coached. I think they do a good job. But that’s not to diminish the skillset of the players. I think they do a good job of evaluating guys, where some people might not have seen the value. Not even that, it’s the guys they want for their system. I don’t know those guys that well, but it does seem like whoever they get, they plug them in there and they can play and they present problems. They probably have a checklist of what they’re looking for. They probably go out there and evaluate, whether it’s through the draft process, free agency, guys being familiar with guys from other teams and just say, ‘hey, this is a guy that fits the mold for what we want.’ They do a great job.
Q: Isaac Yiadom is a guy you guys traded for right before the season. He was a third round pick for the Broncos, he started for two years and then they traded him right before the season for a seventh round pick. I’m curious when you get a guy like that who has kind of been through that kind of journey, do you say, ‘come in and prove the Broncos wrong for giving up on you’? Is that a conversation you have with them?
A: Is that the motivation? No, because I don’t know the reason why. They might have had needs somewhere else. It’s all about the value. I can’t speak for those guys. But do I use that as motivation? No. I’m just happy he’s here. He’s a big corner who can run, who can tackle, has some speed and plays physical. I’m just glad to work with him.
Q: How has he handled that quick turnaround? He got traded to you guys right before the season and then got thrown into the fire pretty quick, obviously.
A: He’s working hard. Extra time in the meetings with our younger coaches like Mike Trier and (Anthony) Blevins working with him. He’s getting all the coaching he can take and just trying to catch up because he wasn’t here for the spring, the Zoom call part of it, and he wasn’t here for training camp with us. But he’s catching up.
Q: Where do you stand at that number two cornerback spot, on the outside across from (James) Bradberry?
A: Guys are competing. Whether it’s Corey, Ike, Slim, all those guys are competing for the spot. We’ll figure it out, see what happens on Sunday. But we still have two more days left of competition. I know the guys are looking forward to practice here today. Usually what we do, we just evaluate it as the week goes through. Then you get to the game and if there’s some place that you need to change there, we’ll do that. But I think it’s just an on-going competition right now.
Q: It seemed like Corey Ballentine was benched after the touchdown. He really didn’t play much, if at all. What was the thinking behind that and what have you seen from him early on this season?
A: I know yesterday, Corey was working really, really hard in practice. I saw him running to the ball yesterday. I’m proud of the guy. A young player going out there practicing hard, working on his skill. I thought he did a good job there. In the meetings, he’s been great as we try to get caught up on the 49ers and the receivers we’re dealing with from them. Corey’s preparation in terms of what he’s doing right now to get ready for the 49ers has been good. He’s practicing hard and I’m sure he’s ready to go practice today.
Q: Are you content with his play on the field, though? That’s also part of the equation, right?
A: I’m not content… We all have to get better. I’m not going to single him out. I have to get better. Patrick Graham has to get better. We’re in the early part of the season. I have to do a better job of coaching, I have to do a better job of calling the game. That’s how I see it. Everybody has to get better. Any time we get complacent in this league, it might be your last day, it might be your last year. Who knows? But I’m not ever going to get complacent. I’m never going to let them feel me getting complacent. We have to keep improving. Am I content? I hope not. I hope not. If I do, then I’m probably at the end of my career.
Q: You guys have been pretty good against the run, but that last drive, obviously, you end up forcing a long field goal. But the way the Bears were able to run the ball on that last drive, that’s kind of contrary to the identity that you guys want. I’m just wondering, what went wrong on a drive like that in giving up chunk plays like that, especially when you know they’re kind of trying to protect their quarterback and how do you guard against that happening again?
A: I think the first thing is, watch the tape. I think about the 49ers, this is the best rushing team in the league and we have a great challenge there. I can speak for myself, but in terms of wanting to get back at it, we have a big challenge this week to get back at the run game because they’re going to give us a healthy dose of it. If we want to get better, which is always the goal, that’s what we’re dealing with right now. It starts in the meeting rooms and the film room going through it, practice yesterday with pads on, getting the physicality of the game and working through the run game. That’s the main thing, just putting the work in for it. Obviously, when you give up rushing yards, especially when you know they want to run it, that’s not what you want to do. It all falls back on me. I have to do a better job there putting the guys in a better spot. But I can tell you this, we’re working to get better at it right now. Those guys, they worked their tails off yesterday at practice, working hard. But again, I don’t want to talk about it because talk doesn’t mean anything, especially when you’re talking about the run game. To me, talk about the run game means absolutely nothing. We have to go out there on the field and execute. I’m looking forward to practice today, build upon that, and see how it comes to fruition on Sunday.
Q: I wanted to ask you, Ryan Lewis, obviously you guys brought him up to the active roster this week. I know he’s somebody you have history with. How does he fit into this equation and the backend? Is he an option to kind of be on the outside for that second cornerback spot opposite Bradberry?
A: You’re going to find I’m very simple when it comes to the corners. Can they tackle? Can they run? Do they have toughness? Being with Ry Lew for a while, I know he can run. That’s a given. I know he has toughness and he can tackle. He’s in the mix. I’m telling you, you can’t have enough of those guys in this league, a passing league. We’re going to be dealing with a lot of the run game right now and that’s what we have to defend, but it’s a passing league, so any of those corners who can run, tackle and have toughness, they have a chance with us. I’m looking forward to it. He’s been competing, competing pretty hard yesterday in practice. We have a big day today with some of the situational football. Yeah, he’s definitely in the mix.
Q: When Blake Martinez came to the Giants, he said that in Green Bay he was more of a cleanup guy and he was looking forward to being more of an impactful guy near the line of scrimmage. We know Martinez is going to get a lot of tackles. We know that. What do you see from him as far as the quality of his tackles? Is there anything you can maybe help him with to make more tackles at the line of scrimmage, tackles for loss, things like that?
A: The thing about Blake, I think I said this before, I’m not really concerned about last year. No offense, but I’m not concerned about last year. Blake’s trying to get better every day and he loves to be coached. I think Blake is playing at a good level in terms of getting to the ball, controlling the defense, manipulating the front, he’s being physical at the line of scrimmage. I told him, I said, ‘you look fast out there, you’re playing with your hands, you’re being physical.’ I’m sure he’ll be the first one to tell you that he probably has two or three plays he wishes he did better. Add the plays that I think he maybe should have done better. I know this, yesterday after practice, the physicality when we had pads on, he was trying to get that done. I appreciate how he goes about trying to execute and how he goes about working every day. He comes to work to get better every day. How can I help him? Like all the players, whether it’s him, Devante, Tae Crowder, Carter Coughlin, I’m just honest with him. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it isn’t, it isn’t. The beauty about Blake is he usually knows when it’s not good enough so he works hard to get better. If it is good enough, he thinks he can do it even better. I couldn’t ask for more as a coach. How much can I help him? Putting him in the right spot, be honest with him. But the relationship is he helps me more than anything, because he’s a good player who can execute. He helps me more. I just try not to mess him up.