SANTA CLARA – Greg Roman spoke at the media tent Friday afternoon. Here’s what he said about Vernon Davis.
ME: Many people consider Vernon Davis the best tight end in the NFL, but he doesn’t catch the most passes in this offense. In fact, he’s third in targets this season. Why is that?
ROMAN: “He gets my vote for best in the NFL. Physically, you’re not going to find a better tight end. Vernon has evolved into a great team leader. He’s out catching balls. He does it every day. He does all the things you want from a leader. Doesn’t matter the situation – getting a lot of balls or not – he’s got a great team attitude. People talk about catches. He blocked that 330-pound defensive end (Red Bryant) all day. I think he was pretty much 100 percent. Pass or run, I think Vernon Davis is the best all-around tight end in the league. There are some really good ones out there and I’m not taking anything away from them because I’m biased.
“Why he hasn’t caught more balls than somebody else? We run it more than some teams. Some teams just chuck it around. We try to create more balance. There were different coverage-looks were getting last week that were very unique. It was just a situation where his number was dialed a few times but because of the coverage, we put the ball somewhere else.”
ME: Michael Crabtree was targeted on 25 percent of the passes last year. He’s been targeted on 25 percent of the passes this year, too. But Davis’ target percentage has dropped from 21 to 17. That’s why I asked. On pass plays, why isn’t Davis catching the greatest share of balls?
ROMAN: “It depends what the defense does, and I’m not going to get too technical here. Teams have made some different adjustments – three teams in particular – they do different things to make sure…they come into the game saying, “Vernon Davis will not beat us.” They’ve done that, and now the onus goes onto the other players. We’re very cognizant of it.
“As coaches before the game, we’re saying, “Are they going to do this or are they going to do this, are they going to mix it, what’s it going to be?” And then once the game starts, you get the feel of what they’re trying to minimize. Some teams have taken drastic measures to make sure Vernon doesn’t get after them down the field or across the field. That just puts the onus on everybody else.
MAIOCCO: You mentioned teams are saying Vernon Davis will not beat them. At some point do you have to be a little more stubborn and say, “If that’s the design of your defense, we’re going to force the issue and make sure Vernon Davis does beat you whether you want him to or not?”
ROMAN: “That’s a very general question. I don’t know that I can answer that because if he’s triple-covered, I don’t think you do that. I think everybody else has to do their job on offense. I think when we’re at our best, the ball’s being distributed evenly.
“There are times though when we will design specific plays for Vernon. It’s Vernon or there might be read No.2, but that’s it. I don’t think you want to make a living on that. I don’t think anybody does. When people go to extreme measures to take away something, I think you want to go to something else.”
MAIOCCO: Do you feel that those three teams you mentioned have gone to extreme measures to take Davis away?
ME: Yesterday morning on KNBR, Greg Cosell said Vernon Davis runs just three or four routes in your offense. Why haven’t you designed more plays for him?
ROMAN: “I don’t know who made those comments or what he’s referencing. I really can’t speak about that. I will say that Vernon runs more than three or four routes. I don’t know what’s going on there.”