Roman on the 49ers’ wide receivers: “There is a good chance you see more of them.”

SANTA CLARA — Greg Roman was interviewed in the 49ers’ auditorium Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a transcript.

ROMAN: Afternoon. Had a great practice yesterday. A lot of spirit. Looking for another one today. Got a lot of things going on right now. Our offensive staff, just got to commend them. To a man they do a great job. Very fortunate to work with this group. It’s our fourth year together for the most except for a couple guys here and there. To a position I think they do as good of a job as anyone in the NFL. Looking forward to having a great day today. Any questions.

Q: How do you feel about your offense getting shut out on Sunday?

ROMAN: Not good. At all. We’ve got to improve. Again, a lot of really good individual performances. A lot of good individual moments, but not enough collective cohesion, precision by the offensive unit to playing winning football. You go through the tape, there’s a lot of great things. It serves as a great tool for us to understand that football is the ultimate team sport. It takes 11 guys on the field to get the job done. Got to do better.

Q: Why would you commend the coaching staff right now?

ROMAN: Probably could do it every day. They do a great job day in and day out. They work tirelessly. It’s a staff with absolutely no motives other than to help the players and to win. Probably should do it more.

Q: Are we going to see more three and four wide receiver sets and empty sets from your offense this season?

ROMAN: That remains to be seen. It’s week to week. It’s all about how does that match up against a particular team. We play quite a bit of empty. We probably use more tight formations that some people and we haven’t played a lot of…haven’t lived in three wide receiver sets like some have. And there are really, really good teams that play in three wide receiver sets, but there are a lot of teams that do the same and don’t enjoy the same success. So, it will be very specific to us, our personnel, how it matches up against the other team.

Q: Is your personnel more suited for that now than before?

ROMAN: I’ve always felt really good about our personnel. A guy like Vernon Davis you can split out. Some of the tight ends we have and have had we will split out and create those distributions, you know, three wide receiver looks, etc. So i like where our wide receivers are. They’re working hard and there is a good chance you see more of them.

Q: How do you assess Josh Johnson so far?

ROMAN: We’ve got some history with Josh and feel really good about that. I think there are a couple of things that happened in games that he would like to take back, maybe do over again. Those are things that are very fixable. He got us going into a nice rhythm and tempo in Baltimore, and then we had the fumbled snap. Those are the things that just can’t happen and I think he understands that. We see him for umpteen number of snaps every day in practice. That serves as a really good barometer. And then game days are when you’ve got to put it all together as a player. We’ve just got to, as a unit, do a better job on game day.

Q: Jim  Harbaugh talked about it’s time to stop experimenting and to go with the guys who are going to be playing. How much do you look at who will be the third receiver and the fourth receiver on the active 46-man roster during the regular season?

ROMAN: We have gotten a tremendous amount of opportunities for almost all of our players in situations that we were hoping to evaluate them in. So that’s been a very, very positive thing for us. That’s really the crux of this time of year.

Q: Have you seen enough of Stevie Johnson to know how he’s going to fit into the offense?

ROMAN: Yeah, I think we definitely understand how he can fit in. I really believe that we need to keep working to develop the level of chemistry that we want and that’s an ongoing process. That’s not something that will ever stop. Hopefully it peaks the last day of the season. It’s something we have to improve upon every day. And that’s really everything, every unit as a whole. So really happy to have Stevie and think he’ll bring a lot to the table. Have a good feel for his skill set. I love his energy out there. Us as a unit needs to continue to work every day to develop that chemistry.

Q: Is Stevie Johnson your No.3 receiver?

ROMAN: We don’t put numbers on them.

Q: If you have three receivers out on the field will he be one of them?

ROMAN: It depends. I think we will have some flexibility.

Q: Are there difficulties in evaluating players in the preseason when the game plan is at a different level than what it would be in the regular season?

ROMAN: To your point, yes, in a way, on game day. But during the practice and whatnot we’re working on things that reflect the regular season, so you get a good feel there. But yeah, there is a little bit of a question mark.  But I think we try to set things up so we can get that evaluation as much as possible without getting too specific.

Q: Do you expect to get Garrett Celek back soon?

ROMAN: He’s coming along. I am not aware of the exact day that he will be back but looking forward to him getting back out and competing.

Q: Can you talk about your backup offensive line?

ROMAN: That’s been a real positive for us, getting guys opportunities at different positions. The ability to show position flexibility serves us well and serves them well as players. I think our second offensive line has done a very good job thus far throughout camp. They need to keep it going. I think they’ve done a nice job in pass protection and in run blocking. Sure, there are always things to get better but these guys have really done a good job. Really coming together as a unit, it’s pretty neat to watch.

Q: What’s your assessment of Marcus Martin?

ROMAN: Marcus missed the first couple of weeks of camp so he’s behind. But he did a very good job in the game. Was very excited to see him carry over what he’s been doing in practice to the game. Really excited for him because he’s going to have a very bright future.

Q: Is he progressing slowly?

ROMAN: He’s got a great attitude. Thus far it’s been very good. He’s behind. He missed some time, valuable experience. He’s got to catch up. You can’t stay behind. You’ve got to catch up. I’ll let you know when he gets caught up but he’s working really diligently to get caught up. Just to reiterate, I think he’s got a bright future if he continues to work the way he’s working.

Q: Where is Marcus Lattimore in his recovery?

ROMAN: He’s looking good. Our training staff is the people to ask on that if you want to get specifics, Jeff Ferguson in particular. They’re putting him through a lot of change-of-direction stuff and hard type cutting. He’s looking good but I would ask Fergy about that.

Q: Anthony Davis said yesterday he doesn’t need any work preseason work to get ready for the season opener in Dallas. Do you agree with that?

ROMAN: I think it’s really according to our training staff, how they organize that and what’s best for the player and his health and where he’s at. I think Anthony is getting there and he’s starting to take part in some of practices which is good to see. We’ll just see how it goes in conjunction with our training staff. But you definitely want to have as much practice as you can relative to your health. But sometimes, hey, that’s just how the cookie crumbles and you do the best you can and you get ready the best you can.

Q: If he does come back and starts practicing with the first team unit, will Jonathan Martin start getting practice reps at guard?

ROMAN: Yeah, I think Jon is a guy that can play probably four positions on the offensive line and at some point you’d like to be able to get him some work in those areas. We’ll see how that goes.

Q: You’re now able to carry 10 players on the practice squad. How was that news received by the coaching staff?

ROMAN: Great. It was a great decision by the National Football League. Really is. Just gives more players a chance to develop and have a job. Selfishly, it gives us a chance to develop a couple extra guys. I think it’s a great thing. Bravo. Great decision.

This article has 65 Comments

  1. Nice to hear the info on Lattimore.
    I think the delay has been thought of as some sort of a setback.
    Hard-cutting is GOOD.
    No way they’d let him do that if he wasn’t ready.

    1. Yeah, I think Lattimore is probably just being treated super carefully. Part of me wonders if he’ll be stashed on the NFI list for part of the year just to allow us to keep an extra guy on the roster at WR/CB. Under this theory, Lattimore would only be activated if a crisis emerged at RB and he would “suddenly become healthy.”

      1. Me too.
        Insurance policies are nice things to have.
        And he could be a mighty fine one.

  2. More passing … ?

    Did G-Ro just let the cat out of the bag ?

    Can’t wait for the Cowgirls !

    Go Niners !

  3. we may see more 3WR+ sets. But I have a feeling that Roman hinted at what you may see more of. Which are TEs (and fullbacks) spread wide. Remember that if McDonald ever gets his head screwed on straight and insych with his hands, he did line up wide as a receiving TE/WR in college. So along with Vernon, you a lot of potential formation versatility even in a heavy personnel package. and didn’t they line up Tufuaku wide in the last preseason game (which was probably kind of a joke…kind of…).

    1. It almost seems like pure stubbornness (for lack of a better term) to not use all those talented WRs somehow. I understand the versatility in the heavy sets, but if that’s his idea of spreading them out…then I don’t know.

      1. If done right, using the TE’s as the 3rd wideout is the best option because of the conflicts that it causes for the defense.

        Defensive coordinators will typically match their personnel to the offense. By being able to spread it out when in a two TE set you should be able to force the defense into their base group which in turn creates mismatches that can be exploited.

        1. same mistmatch principle when offenses line up with 3WRs, defenses match them with the Nickel and the offense runs against the Nickel. Happened to the Niners defense last season.

            1. The Eagles would do that alot and then run Westbrook up the gut.
              At times, it looked like he could drive his car through the gaps!

        2. Jack, I do agree. I recall that this was one of the reasons the 49ers’ “22” package was successful against teams like Seattle because they struggled defending both VD and Delanie Walker. Getting McDonald to play as well as Walker did would be huge for the offense against tough defenses.

        3. Can’t you do the same thing on 1st down with Shotgun Spread, when the defense is usually in their base?

          1. Not if they’re matching personnel. When they see you run out three receivers they’ll just run out their nickle back.

          2. If Ward is the starting safety along side Reid, the 49ers can stay in their base D against 3 WR sets. They’ll just slide Ward to cover the slot.

              1. It appears Nick row is a little slow on the free agent signings of the 49ers this year!

      2. Most people like to stay in their comfort zones. They tend to stick to things they have had past success with. It seems that when Roman tried something new it bit him in the rear. We all remember the lateral and fumble against the Rams. People like him ( stubborn) tend also to swing to an extreme once they do try something different. Smart coaches will create a team roster than reflects versatility. I sometimes wonder why this same principle is not applied when putting together a front office and coaching staff.

        1. Roman isn’t perfect, but he can be plenty creative. Your example is extreme. My only issue with him is sometimes he will not stick with what is working within the flow of a particular drive or quarter. Specifically I’m thinking of the Colts loss last year when the run game was clearly working in the 2nd quarter and he abandoned it for unknown reasons.

        2. You’re right. Roman is completely against creativity on offense. It’s not like he had a lineman line up as a wide receiver last year to help set up a touchdown to Vernon Davis or anything crazy like that.

        3. Why do guys give Roman all the blame for that play?
          I mean, Kap did pitch that thing like 20 feet over Ginn’s head.
          Like always, if the play works it’s brilliant, if not…
          Sometimes it’s just a poor execution of a good play call.
          I’m not saying it WAS the right play call…I’m saying I’ll never know–neither will you.

          1. It was a questionable play call due to the game situation. Kind of like when Coach Nickerson decided to call an handoff in the mud and pouring rain to Salvucci instead of just having Rifleman run a QB sneak.

            When coaches make calls like that they risk having a dead chicken hanging in front of their door the next morning.

          2. as Jack says, it’s sort of a risk/reward game situation kind of thing.

            1. it’s not like that play is one of the Niner’s bread and butter plays. We’re assuming they didn’t spend hours practicing on how to execute it. it’s a trick/gadget type of play. So the team’s comfort level at executing isn’t like them running a basic slant pass play or a power O run. which makes it a riskier play.

            2. the Niner’s field position: a turnover could put the opposing team in good field position…which of course it did. that’s why often times you’re not going to see many deep or riskier pass plays when teams are inside their own 30 or inside the opponent’s 30. a turnover either puts the opponent in good field position or you give up a sure field goal opportunity. when it’s 3rd and 6 inside the Niner’s 10 and they hand the ball off for a 4 yard run up the middle, we all groan but it’s a good safe tactical decision (unless you’re down by 3 TDs).

            1. I get all that.
              All I’m saying is that if the play worked, nobody would have called it questionable.
              Guys may have called it ‘risky’, but they would’ve applauded the call.
              Example: remember when Switzer called ‘Load Left’ twice in a row?
              That WAS one of their bread-n-butter plays.
              Of course, calling it two times in a row WAS queationable AND risky AND it didn’t work.
              The Eagles knew it was coming.
              But teams always knew that play was coming BECAUSE it was a bread-n-butter play.
              Nate Newton used to brag about it just like Lombardi bragged about the Power Sweep.
              ‘Here it comes. Defend it.’
              But just imagine if it HAD worked…how would we remember Switzer today?
              Certainly not for ‘Load Left’ twice in a row, which is how he’ll always be remembered.
              Just saying…

              1. if the play worked…sure absolutely we wouldn’t say anything. we wouldn’t complain if it was an 80 yard deep bomb in the endzone to Tufuaku either (I would love to see that). but i’m guessing that a Will Tufuaku on a deep go route isn’t a high probability play. pretty risky…but who knows maybe Tuk has some great hands some sweet 300 lber moves.

                it’s all about figuring out what the risk factors are. certainly predictability vs. reliable execution comes have to be balanced out when considering play selection.

  4. I think Harbaugh and Roman plan to use more true 3-WR sets (“11 personnel”) than they have in the past, but that by comparison with the general trend of the rest of the league, they will not appear to be using 3 WRs all that much.

    Hyde and Lattimore (and even Hunter, before he was injured) all have experience running from a “11” set in college. If the “11” set is going to truly threaten and confuse defenses, the 49ers have to be able to threaten with the run or pass out of that formation. Traditionally they have not because (1) Gore dislikes running out of a spread set with no FB, and (2) their formation strengths have been out of “22” and “21” formations. Whenever the 49ers have gone to an “11” set, it has been on 3rd and long, and has been predictable (and also not very successful).

    I think Harbaugh wants to be able to throw a multivaried “11” set out there on 2nd and short and have the defense truly unsure if Gore is getting the short carry, Kap is throwing a short pass to the slot WR, Kap is throwing a deep shot, or Kap’s running the ball himself on a read option play.

    I do not think the 49ers will deviate from their run-first, “22” and “21” personnel base.

    1. Adusoron–Thanks very informative. Wouldn’t that also imply that they would be more apt to run the 11 set more often as Gore’s is transitioned out of the offense.

      1. Willtalk – possibly. However, the extension to Bruce Miller implies to me that they’ll remain a base 22/21 offense because Hyde and Lattimore can run behind a FB too. Baalke wants a back-by-committee approach and they all need to be able to run behind a FB or by themselves.

  5. Shotgun Ace Pair would allow them to line up both TE’s on the same side as the Flanker and still be able to run or pass…..

    1. what you could do is line up in an Ace Tight formation. send the 2nd TE/F in motion and look for an indicator of man/zone coverage. if Zone, then line up between the Y TE and the Flanker so that you can flood the zone. If Man line up out in the weakside slot to spread out the defense (probably have a backer on the 2nd TE). you could run out of any of these formations.

          1. they do move the 2nd and 3rd TEs around a lot. But you often don’t see the heavy formation line up wide to spread out the defense. what I’m talking about is flexibility for going from tight to spread depending on how the defense is playing. though I’m not sure if the Harbaugh/Roman offensive system will let leave that much decision making on the field.

            1. They do it all the time AFFP. They motion and shift from heavy to spread looks constantly.

              1. hmmm…maybe I’m seeing things differently. or I’ll have to watch again or more closely. because I really don’t see many spread heavy sets. I mean sure you’ll occasionally see Vernon lined out wide and 3 years ago there were a few plays were Staley and later Sopoaga went out for passes…but I’m not sure if those were spread out formations. …i know we saw a little more of that in the Broncos preseason game…but I don’t recall seeing it as much in the past.

              2. I concur. They shift between heavy and spread formations quite often, although it was more prevalent when Delanie was still here.

              3. Last year it looked as though some of it was more window dressing. With VMac fully tuned, and the new weaponry, I’d like to see more purpose from these plays….

        1. i dunno, i’m making this stuff up as I go along.

          i’m just keying in on Roman’s comments about the versatility of Davis lining up wide. McDonald’s college experience lining up as a slot TE/Receiver and their increased use of Fullbacks as receivers (more Tuk line out wide please!). adding versatility to their heavier formations would be in line with the Roman/Harbaugh/Schembechler philosophy of power running being the backbone and bread and butter of your offense along with using a TE (which Bo made Harbaugh promise he’d continue to use).

  6. I liked AFFP’s prior suggestions that Mangini might be teaching the TEs “option routes.” I think that would be a logical growth progression in the offense and would stress out the defense. It will be interesting to see if that shows up on film this year.

      1. I’m not sure – I was going off AFFP’s previous posts suggesting that this would be a growth opportunity. I’m not such an experienced (fan) All-22 film watcher to the point where I can tell from alignments or body movements that a WR/TE is running an option route.

        My current guess is no, but do you have any different information?

      2. back in 2011 we were told they removed site adjustments and option routes.

        I don’t know if that’s changed, but I haven’t seen anything that would indicate it has.

        we know that Roman/Harbaugh run a somewhat more rigid type of offensive system. scheme heavy that leaves more of the work for the coaches to scheme to get a primary receiver open. and that the QB doesn’t audible much (other than the 2-3 plays called in the huddle) and doesn’t use site adjusted routes (if the 2011 article is still to be believed). This sort of ties into what Dilfer and Moss said about the Niner’s offense. It being a predetermined set of progressions and receivers being “decoys” (not really but to a certain degree not being primary receivers).

        1. Not trying to be rude, but how would you know if they were without being in the huddle or knowing the play call?

          1. without what? I’m just going off of interviews and analysis by the coaches and by anaylsts; Chris Brown, Cossell, Dilfer..etc….

            again, i don’t know if all of these things still are true for the offense or to what degree they were true in the first place. I mean I can kind of watch tape and sort of guess what is going on in terms of how a receiver runs their route and the defense is called. you can watch a TE and after while figure out that he’s looking for holes in the coverage and not just running a strict route. but your’e right, original intent or original play called…you can only guess based on past plays called and routes run.

    1. that idea came from the Lindy Infante roots that Harbaugh has. He ran Infante’s offense in Indy which featured option routes by the receivers. Infante said he got the idea watching Don Coryell’s Chargers Kellen Winslow run his own routes to get open. So while I don’t think Harbaugh is ready to let all the receivers site adjust their routes, he may start with letting the TE or slot guy do it and become sort of safety blanket for the QB as Witten (a master option route runner) is for Romo.

        1. i don’t think so. but i don’t know for sure. i suspect it was just his unique route running. how he starts his routes, how sudden he cuts, when or if he has a stagger in his routes to lull a defender to sleep or how he runs a route based on how he judges a coverage; cover 3 in front of the deep safety and behind the underneath coverage or making sure he gets the inside leverage on a corner using the sideline.

  7. Conversations like this makes this blog so much better. Thanks guys for sharing your football knowledge (you know who you are)!

  8. Nick:
    I was talking past-tense, when Westbrook was the Eagles feaured back.

    1. sounds like the old Bills K-Gun offense. It makes sense for almost every offense to have a package of plays to run a hurry up offense (even outside of the final 2 minutes of a half) for when the coaches or QB recognize a personnel or scheme match up advantage for the offense. when you go to the hurry up, it obviously freeze the defense’s personnel but it also limits their defensive plays and can lock them into base coverages and line play which makes them more predictable for the offenses to take advantage of. the reads for the QB become simpler too.

      I’m not sure how effective it would be against the Niner’s defense. The Niners would probably already be in their Nickel package. they don’t typically rely on too much variation (like blitzes) from their base coverages and experienced leaders like Willis, Justin Smith and even Bethea should be able to keep the order. It might confuse some of the younger players like Ward (if he were playing slot Corner), Willhoite or Borland at ILB and if Tank , Lemons or maybe even Lynch happen to be subbing in at End.

      The Niners dabbled with a hurry up offense for half a series or so last year during the regular season. But I think that unless there’s an incredible and tangible advantage on the field for running it, Roman and Harbaugh will stick with their philosophy of grinding out the clock.

      1. Thanks AFF or anyone who want to give me advice:

        While I’ve got you here may I ask you a question.

        I’m new to football — couple of years. I’m trying to read everything I can get my hands on, learn terminology, formations, schemes, the list goes on and on. My goal, of course, is to actually watch a game and understand what’s happening, identify the plays, pick up on mistakes. I don’t like re-inventing the wheel and I’m wondering if there is a way I can simplify this process. I’m watching games across the league, but I haven’t yet started breaking down plays, etc. As you can see, I don’t even know the right questions to ask. Thanks.

        1. Mary
          I’m a visual learner. I like translating it into an overview, but what enhances my understanding translates first visually. Pattern recognition will help you understand what you see.
          NFL Rewind subscription will let you review successful and unsuccessful plays several times focusing separately on linemen, defenders, RBs to see why plays did or didn’t work.
          Also, chart a few Seahawks games while watching live. Just keep track of your offense at first. What did they do each play?
          -Down + yards to go
          Short hand the play
          1/10 Lynch off right tackle
          2/6. Lynch off left tackle
          1/10 fake Lynch right, throw to TE mid
          You’ll begin to get a feel for how they roll. Happy hunting.

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