The San Francisco 49ers threw Shayne Skov right into the fire in the team's first preseason game against the Houston Texans.
The second-year linebacker played 66 defensive snaps and nine plays on special teams. Skov's 75 total snaps were easily a game-high, six more than rookie linebacker Eli Harold's 69.
Skov's eight tackles, including one for loss, were second on the team behind Nick Moody's nine.
When asked to sum up his busy, yet productive day at the office, Skov took a modest approach.
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"OK. I thought I made some plays but also made some uncharacteristic mistakes," Skov said. "It was my first game in a year, and I'm still growing as a player."
Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini took the opportunity on Monday to compliment the young player's promising performance.
"He started the game and ran the defense really well," Mangini said. "He's a very, very smart guy and does a great job with adjustments. Very rarely do you have to coach Shayne on the same mistake. He sees it, he understands what the coaching point is and typically it doesn't happen again. He's getting a lot of playing time, which is great for him and helps us see where he's going at this point. I was happy with what he did."
Saturday marked the most playing time Skov has gotten in a game since his college days in Palo Alto. The linebacker knew he'd start and likely see extended snaps, but an injury to Desmond Bishop called for Skov playing the entire contest.
The added reps for Skov have been a theme of his offseason. Whether it's with the first-, second- or third-team defense, No. 48 rarely leaves the field.
Skov credited those reps to his progress as a pro.
"They're huge. … No matter what you're doing, getting the repetitions and getting the opportunity to improve, a large component of that is getting the time," said the linebacker. "Being able to do so in the spring, the summer and now in the preseason has been huge for me. There's a level of comfort with what you're doing and then also the communication with your teammates. Getting the opportunity to go out there with those guys has been big."
Mangini has taken notice to the linebacker's development as well. Because Skov spent all of his rookie season on the practice squad, Mangini knows the linebacker is hungry to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster.
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"I think he looks different, not just since last training camp, but even from the spring," Mangini said. "He's had so much more work this year than he did last year and that's helped him. I can't say enough about his recall and ability to self-correct. … There's been growth."
Skov's most admirable trait, maybe even more impressive than his ability to learn from mistakes, is his approach to the game of football. After sitting through draft day and not hearing his name called, finding sources of motivation is fairly trivial for Skov.
The linebacker treats every practice like a heavyweight fight, knowing that letting his guard down would be a cardinal sin (pun intended) as an NFL player.
"I wasn't drafted," Skov stated. "I'll be battling till the day my career is over. You have to have that mentality in this league in order to stick around. Every year is a new challenge, and they're always looking for your replacement. I'm fighting, scratching and clawing, and so is everyone else in that room. There's 90 of us and there will be 53 soon enough."