49ers RB Frank Gore And Overwork In The Offense

49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson spoke with the media today about a variety of topics, but there were several questions related to running back Frank Gore. Frank Gore is currently second among non-QBs in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage, trailing only Arian Foster. Gore is eighth in the NFL with 471 rushing yards and second among running backs with 284 receiving yards (trails Jahvid Best by one yard).

The 49ers run a lot of plays through Gore, but Gore is also an easy check-down option for Alex Smith. One problem early in the season has been Smith's proclivity to dump down to Gore a little too quickly. We saw a possible example of this against the Raiders in the second quarter. The 49ers had a 3rd and 4 on the Raiders 7 with 15 second left in the half. The 49ers lined up in the shotgun with three receivers bunched to the right, Josh Morgan split to the left, and Gore to Smith's immediate left. After the snap, Smith looked towards the end zone for about one second before turning and throwing a swing pass to Gore on his left. The pass was overthrown, but even if Gore had caught it he probably would have been tackled short of the first down.

If the play was not specifically designed for Gore it is an example of Smith checking down a bit too quickly. If the play was designed for Gore, I wonder if it was really the best choice in that situation. Smith completed a passing touchdown to Gore earlier in the season (I think against the Saints) but there was a bit more space and Gore had blockers in front of him.

Based on Johnson's answers in the media session, it sounds like blitz pick-up is the primary reason we don't see more of the other running backs.

On whether you are limited in those areas such as running back and not having those backs that know the areas of blitz pickups and things of that sort:

"See, that's the one thing that the blitz pickup area is the biggest most important area in that you have to make sure that you're sound on, because if you don't you get your quarterback hurt, and guys miss assignments and you get free runners in the back-field. The way blitzes are designed nowadays from defensive teams, blitz protection pickup is the most important thing. With [RB] Brian Westbrook being here and coming here in August, you know that's the hardest part to learn. So we have to make sure that he's sound in all those areas and that he's comfortable and getting the necessary reps in practice to make sure that he's can go, but he is a good back that we have to try to get more touches and more opportunities as we go forward."

Johnson did not address Anthony Dixon in this question, and was not asked about Dixon in any other questions. At this point all I can do is infer, and my inference would be that Dixon is not on the field on offense more frequently because he is working on blitz pickup. I'm only basing this on Johnson's answers to the media, even with no mention of Dixon.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Johnson
Press Conference - October 21, 2010
San Francisco 49ers 

Listen to Audio I Media Center

On how you balance the need to get the best players the ball with getting the ball to RB Frank Gore:

"I mean you get the ball to your best players by making them the intent of the play. So you're still calling a lot of the base plays, but you are structuring your formations to make sure that their looked at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the progression."

On whether you need to look at taking some of the load off of RB Frank Gore so that he is just as strong at the end of the season as he is now:

"Yeah, I mean you do need to take some of that wear and tear off of him, but you know Frank Gore. Frank Gore doesn't like to come out of the game, he's a warrior, he likes to go, and we have to make sure that as a staff we are giving that load to other people in making sure that we try to keep him fresh, but the one thing about Frank Gore, when he's touching the ball I think we're winning, or we are going to win. I think he's a guy that can do a lot of different things. He's good in the running game, he's good in the pass game, and he's good on third down. He's good in the screen game, I mean he's good in all of those areas and we'd like to give him touches, but we have to use our other backs though and take some of that load off of him because he is in great shape, but as the course of the season goes on, it may wear him down, so we are very mindful of that and there will be a plan going forward that we make sure we use other people to make sure that he's not taking as many of those snaps."

On whether you are limited in those areas such as running back and not having those backs that know the areas of blitz pickups and things of that sort:

"See, that's the one thing that the blitz pickup area is the biggest most important area in that you have to make sure that you're sound on, because if you don't you get your quarterback hurt, and guys miss assignments and you get free runners in the back-field. The way blitzes are designed nowadays from defensive teams, blitz protection pickup is the most important thing. With [RB] Brian Westbrook being here and coming here in August, you know that's the hardest part to learn. So we have to make sure that he's sound in all those areas and that he's comfortable and getting the necessary reps in practice to make sure that he's can go, but he is a good back that we have to try to get more touches and more opportunities as we go forward."

On the importance of blitz pickup and whether that is because teams are blitzing more up the middle these days and whether that is the running backs job to step up and take care of that:

"Not necessarily, you have base blitzes where they are bringing certain things, and then you have nickel blitzes on third down where they are playing odd-fronts. Where they are playing three down linemen schemes with a lot of walk around backers and safeties coming from different edges and you have to make sure that you're sound in those areas. In the way we design our blitz pickup and blitz protection schemes, the back is a very important part of that, and [RB] Frank Gore is as solid of a back as I have ever been around in handling all of the necessary adjustments. He is a guy that can cover up a lot of other deficiencies that we may have because of his football intellect and how smart he is as a football player in those different areas. So, it's a comfort zone for us coaches as well, but we do have to find ways to make sure that we get him some rest."

On how long it takes to learn the 49ers blitz pickup package specifically since RB Brian Westbrook is such an accomplished player:

"Well, we do more from that than most, and our quarterback redirects protections. We do more at the line of scrimmage with our quarterback in redirecting protections and making calls than any other team that I have been around. So I think he's getting close, I think he's starting to get comfortable now, and as the season goes on I think you'll see him more in those areas."

On the development of C David Baas:

"Well, he's getting better. He's definitely getting better, and it's like anything else, the more you play and the more looks you see, the better you get. He's a guy that has been solid for us from the time that he started this year, and we are glad to have him. It's a good problem to have when you have him and you have [C] Eric Heitmann, and all these other areas that the center has to take care of. Davis Baas, the more he plays I think the better he's getting."

On how much the offense feeds off RB Frank Gore:

"He's one of our best players, and like you say, I think when he's going, I think our passing game is better. I think when he's going, the line is blocking better and protecting better. He's a big part of what we do and we're happy to have him and I'm glad that he's the kind of player that he is and that he's in the kind of shape that he's in, and that he's the warrior that he is because if he's going then our offense is going to be pretty good."

On when you prepare to call a game whether you take into consideration how well the 49ers defense is playing:

"Yeah, I think every game is different in that way. I think you have to get a feel for how the defense is playing, what type of offense we are playing against. Do we need to make sure we have more ball control and keep their offense on the sideline and things like that? I think the areas that I think are really specific to each game are the third down situations and the red zones. I think those two areas there are areas that you really have to look at because every team is different when it comes to those two areas."

On whether you talk to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky when it comes to preparing for a game:

"Well, we do that before the game, meaning sometime Friday or Saturday. We come out after Saturday as a staff understanding what it's going to take for us to win the game. What type of offense are we going against, what type of defense are we going against, what is going to be our base plan from the end of the first half to a two-minute situation? What is going to be our plan going into the game? All of those things are discussed and talked about and we have somewhat of a plan as to how we are going to attack it, going in, and then as the game unfolds you kind of play it by ear."

On whether you have any communication with Greg Manusky during the game:

"No"

On whether during the Raiders game it was a case of playing it by ear, being cautious as to see how the game unfolded:

"I wouldn't say it was cautious. That's a word that I wouldn't use. I think we didn't execute and get some of the plays that we had up, but I wouldn't say cautious. I think there were a couple of opportunities early in the game that I thought we could have had more big plays, but for whatever reason it just didn't play out, but you have to understand also that there is a defense in front of you, and sometimes there's a good design where a guy might be open down field where you have a protection problem and you can't get to him. There might be sometimes where you have a good play you think is going to be a great one and the coverage might be a little bit different than what you may see, but every game you're going to have a certain amount of opportunities to make big plays, and the second half we had two opportunities to make big plays and cash in on them. So that's how the game goes sometimes, and sometimes you hit on all cylinders, and sometimes it's a struggle early and then you finish them off. That's just the way the football games are in the NFL."

On whether the 2nd half of the Raiders game was the Mike Johnson offense that you had envisioned:

"Well, we're constantly evolving and we are making necessary changes each week to kind of find exactly what we want to do. I have said this before and I said it last week a couple times before, you can't change an entire offense in a week or two. There are 2000 reps that go into training camp and there's a certain way in which you are designed to play. We're making little tweaks here and there to try to get to the point and help everybody play better in the way we want to go forward, and as you go through the season, you'll see that evolve a little bit."

On whether you are doing anything differently when it comes to the success of your 3rd down completions:

"It's like what I said earlier, I think 3rd downs are an area that we look at specifically against the opponent that we are playing against, and I think our plan going in is tailored to a specific team where you have a playbook of plays that you have in your base offense, but that area is specifically designed for a specific team and I think we have been executing those pretty well."

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Niners Nation

You must be a member of Niners Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Niners Nation. You should read them.

Join Niners Nation

You must be a member of Niners Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Niners Nation. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker