If run game lives up to Raye’s vision, expect excitement

If run game lives up to Raye’s vision, expect excitement


OK, so maybe Jimmy Raye got a little carried away yesterday when he stated that his idea of a balanced offense was 60-percent running plays.


If something like that really happened, 49ers fans would love it – that is, if 49ers fans love the excitement of winning. Because — as mind-numbing boring as it might sound — in the NFL, running the football with great frequency is an indicator of success.


Do teams run to win? Or do they win then run? It does not matter.


Only five teams in the NFL ran the ball more than 50 percent of their offensive plays last season. Here is a look at those teams, along with their percentage of run plays (with overall record in parenthesis):


Ravens 56.0% (11-5)

Falcons 55.4% (11-5)

Panthers 53.7% (12-4)

Titans 52.2% (13-3)

Vikings 51.2% (10-6)


Those teams finished with a 71.3 win percentage during the regular season. (And each of those teams attempted more passes than runs in their playoff defeats.)


There were 10 teams in the league that ran the ball 46-percent or more in the 2008 regular season. Those teams had a combined win percentage of 65.0.


On the other hand, there were six teams that ran the ball less than 40-percent of the time. The combined win percentage of those teams was 40.6 percent. And that list even includes teams with great quarterbacks, such as Arizona (Kurt Warner), Indianapolis (Peyton Manning) and New Orleans (Drew Brees).


The Cardinals are a perfect example of how successful teams run (or teams that run have success). Arizona was a less-than-impressive 9-7 team during the regular season with six of their wins coming over the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers. They ran the ball 34-percent of the time in the regular season. But in the playoffs when the Cardinals caught fire, that number jumped to 44-percent runs.


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Raye should want to run the ball 60 percent of the time. Heck, why stop there? He should want to run it 75-percent of the time.


And 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky should be leading the charge of people who wants to see the 49ers’ offense go to the ground. Of the 10 teams that ran the ball with the most frequency last season, six of those teams also had defenses ranked in the top-10 in the NFL.


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Manusky said playing time for Friday’s exhibition game against San Diego will be determined on an individual basis. Some starters might get four snaps, he said, others might get 10. Mark Roman will start at strong safety for Michael Lewis, who will be held out after sustaining his second concussion in 11 days. Also, veteran Dre’ Bly will start at right cornerback, though Manusky said no decision for the regular season has been made, as Bly remains in competition with Tarell Brown and Shawntae Spencer.


Veteran cornerback Eric Green will get a lot of playing time, Manusky said, as the club must determine whether to keep him on the 53-man roster.


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Manusky said he believes the 49ers’ front seven is “solid.” He admitted the team’s defense has been vanilla during the exhibition season. The actually scheming of opponents will not begin until next week with the 49ers open the regular season against the Cardinals.


“The front seven is solid, and the back end can cover some people,” Manusky said. “We got to get guys (to) beat those one-on-one matchups and pressure the quarterback more.”


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Backup quarterbacks Alex Smith and Nate Davis figure to get plenty of playing time Friday against the Chargers. The 49ers will be working without a safety net, as they released veteran Damon Huard on Tuesday.


After his strong showing in exhibition games, Davis said he still has a long ways to go before realizing his dream. When asked if he can visualize himself starting for the 49ers in the future, Davis said, “That’s a dream. I have to keep on working to learn the offense and go day-by-day.”


He said his goal is to learn the entire offense by the end of his rookie season. Because of the limited practice reps he received during training camp (while Shaun Hill and Smith competed for the starting job), Davis might be a little behind.


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