On LB Shaq Thompson's performance and progression this season.
"Yeah I would agree. Number one, he's an explosive player. Number two, over the years, we've seen his versatility. There aren't many linebackers that can jump in, kind of, in a nickel role and handle receivers the way he does. I think you're seeing more pressures from him. He does a great job when he's blitzing, and he's one of those guys from sideline to sideline that can run. You've kind of seen his development being someone that's in the division and then watching the film this week."
On gradually developing a player rather than playing a player too quickly.
"I feel, quite honestly, that we've seen him play a lot. There's been games where, in their big nickel package, he was on the field quite a bit. So, I feel like, again because we've been in the division, you've seen the various spots he's played. He's someone that runs well, he's athletic. The structural change relative to their scheme this year and base moving a little bit more to the okie under front has put him in that weak side position and look, I think he's taken advantage of it."
On how much stock he puts in the Week 17 matchup last season when QB Kyle Allen started and you sat most of your starters.
"We did game plan, unfortunately, and he played extremely well. It's part of the cut-ups, and yet I think because of the amount of exposure he's had this year certainly you're getting a larger body of work than if, for instance, he was going to be starting for the first time in this game. Then you'd probably, would obviously spent a lot of time on that game. But it's a part of the cut-up. I think clearly, as you watch them offensively, you've seen his progress. He's athletic, he can get the ball out quick. He's got, I think, real good arm talent – especially when he's moving. He does a really good job outside the pocket locating receivers. It's a little different only from the standpoint that you've got the body of work this year."
On teams attacking them differently with Allen instead of QB Cam Newton, and the differences in Norv Turner's offense this season.
"Norv has done this for a long time, and he's extremely good at it. When you watch them, they're going to be very good with their receiver carries. They do a great job each week of carrying – a couple different behinds or reverses. Each week, I look at the explosive plays in our league, not just the opponent we're playing, and it seems like every week I'm having a chance to see one of the receivers making a play on a reverse. That's part of the challenge defending them, because look, clearly you're seeing the role of Christian McCaffrey exclusively on the field for almost all the snaps, and he's had a fabulous season. So, I think Norv has done a great job adapting to his 11, his 12, 13 guys that are playing, and then building from that."
On what Allen has done better or worse since the Week 17 matchup last year.
"He's just getting the reps. It's hard to play that position if you're not getting the live reps. He's certainly someone who's got good poise. He's got good command of the offense, and I just think the time on task, the experience that he's getting in games clearly allows for growth.
On the danger in a young quarterback not succeeding in an offense and potentially ruining them for the future
"Yeah, there's always that argument or that discussion. Look, he wouldn't be in there playing if he wasn't ready to, and clearly when you watch him, he's ready to. History has seen (Troy) Aikman win three games. Peyton Manning won 'X' amount of games early on. I mean, Drew Brees – I think it all depends on the player, but I think he's handled this season with tremendous poise and has been a real good leader for them."
On Christian McCaffrey on pace to have a record-breaking season and his success.
"Look, that's the challenge. He's playing exceptionally well. Each week, you're seeing explosive runs. Not just eight yard, 10 yard gains, but you're seeing gains of 30, 40. Plays where his speed gets him into the end zone. He's extremely elusive. He's got the ability, with his vision, to cut-back on certain plays. He's playing at an extremely high level and it's one of those things that it's hard to simulate during the practice week. Hopefully, the exposure our defense has had to Alvin (Kamara) can help them, because those two guys both do so many things well – both in the passing game and then the running game. I think trying to get your hats to the ball is going to be important, and then understanding formations, understanding what runs are coming based on backfield sets. All the things that you prepare week-in and week-out for defensively, but he's playing fantastic."
On what WR Michael Thomas has done to become one of the best receivers in the NFL.
"The one thing that comes to mind with Mike is just the consistency week-in and week-out. He's physical, he's got real good size, he's explosive, he's a tireless practice player. So, he's hard on himself each week during the week where all the details are important to him. His route tree, relative to where he's at, has expanded. He's the 'X' receiver for us, and yet, he'll play inside, he'll play the field, he'll play over at the 'Z' side. He's got size and strength, and I think there's a competitive work ethic that goes with him that I think has served him well."