49ers-Rams: Mike Johnson On The Offensive Line and Rams Pass Rush

Earlier this morning I put up a post discussing the Rams pass rush and how the 49ers and their offensive line would have to deal with it, or at least what they might expect to see. After today's walk through in Santa Clara, 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson spoke with the media and addressed the Rams pass rush and the 49ers offensive line. The o-line has rookies in Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis who have had plenty of ups and downs in this their rookie seasons.

Some folks are not convinced one or both of them will ever be good, but I think they're both showing improvement. We don't know whether they'll turn into rocks of the offensive line, but it's too early to say they definitely will not. Coach Johnson spoke first about Iupati and Davis' development thus far (entire transcript after the jump):

On how far G Mike Iupati and T Anthony Davis have come along:

"I think they're getting better, they're becoming more comfortable. I think our offensive line is executing better as a group and we are becoming a more physical football team. I think our pad level is coming down and we're doing a little better job individually one on one pass blocking, and I think we're not having some of the misses that we had earlier in the season. It's going to be another tough test this week, but I think they're getting better as a group overall as an offensive line."

On whether you talk about getting Anthony Davis more help on his side:

"He's on an island, but that's what the tackle business is in the NFL. You can keep help in, but then you play teams like the Denver Broncos and you play teams like the St. Louis Rams and the more people you keep in the more people they bring, and it's a catch-22. Sometimes you have to allow people to get out to give the quarterback quick outlets so that he can throw the ball quickly in case they do get beat, or you have a blitz where they bring one more than you can protect."

Two weeks ago the offensive line faced a Broncos squad that is near the bottom of the league in sacks and adjusted sacks rate. They faced a Rams line that is in the top third of both categories in the NFL. This weekend will be important not only for the much-needed win we'd like to see, but also because we can see if the offensive line is developing, or if the week eight performance was more due to the ineptitude of the Broncos.

After the jump I've posted Johnson's transcript. In it he discusses plenty about Troy Smith, as well as the 49ers tight ends and the Rams blitzing defense. The best question and answer has to be this one:

On whether the deep pass play to TE Delanie Walker was an ill advised decision:

"Well it's not ill advised if he catches it."

Offensive Coordinator Mike Johnson
Post - Walk thru - November 11, 2010
San Francisco 49ers 

Listen to Audio I Media Center

On how much more you are able to do with QB Troy Smith now that you don't have all the rush of being overseas and that you have had two weeks to prepare:

"It's a little bit more, but not too much more. I mean you take an offensive football team and it takes months and sometimes years to really learn all the different details that you have in an offense. So we will do a little bit more than last week, but it's still two weeks into the process here, so we're trying to be smart and utilize him in a way where he can be effective."

On whether this opponent matches up well to what you want to do on offense and whether it will be a shootout type of game:

"I don't know about shoot out type of a game, but they are a team that likes to apply pressure and this is a game where we have to be sound in our protection schemes and make sure that we pick up their blitzes in order to be effective on offense. I mean, they're going to bring blitzes from all angles, so that's a big part of our week in preparing for that."

On how your game plan differs whether it's Troy or QB Alex Smith due to the fact that they are basically the same:

"No, they are not the same. I mean they're two different types of quarterback and they require two different types of thought, but we have to put together a game plan and utilize some of those skills that Troy Smith has and make sure that we can still throw the ball vertical and still run the ball effectively. That's what a big part of our week was last week during the bye week and that was why Troy Smith wasn't here, because we had to decide as a coaching staff, before we put him into an offense that we want to run, we had to see what does he do well and how do we utilize his strengths against the St. Louis Rams and going against their blitz scheme this week."

On whether you spent last week going over the game film and figuring out what goes best with Troy Smith:

"We spent the early part of that bye week trying to look at what he did in the Denver game, look at what he did in the preseason in Baltimore, and the pass history in Baltimore, to kind of figure out how do we want to go forward and approach some of the teams we were going to play. Before we could put him in on offense, we had to look at those things and make sure we did the right things and not just make him fit into what Alex Smith and all those other guys at quarterback did before him."

On whether the players had more time with the game plan in their hands heading into this week:

"They did have more time. We started the game plan last week so we started looking at it early in last week and then we faxed Troy Smith the early part of the game plan and things we were looking at to make sure that he could look at it and get an early start on it, but things are were not finalized yet. So it was still a rough draft and it was still in the process of developing. We tried to keep him abreast step by step as we were putting the plan together."

On how much carry over there is in the game plan as far as percentage of one play to the next:

"Generally you like to think, ‘well we can do some of the same things', but you talk about the core offense that we've had here for the last year and a half means nothing to Troy Smith. We're trying to develop somewhat of an offense and some of those principles that we had so that we don't mess everyone else up, and then utilize the things that he can do effectively to make sure that he can operate against an NFL football team on Sunday."

On whether it is a similar situation to when WR Michael Crabtree came in here last year:

"You can't do that to everyone else. It is similar, but it's from a much broader scale. You're talking about the quarterback, you're not talking about an ‘X' receiver who has one thing to do on every specific play. You're playing against a team, the St. Louis Rams, who have a very complex blitz scheme. So you have to talk about making sure that you are sound from a protection standpoint, a run standpoint, and all the different things that we have to do, and making sure as your quarterback you make all the proper calls, get us in the right runs, and make sure that everything is happening on the right accord so that we can make sure that we execute. All those things take time. We have to develop them as a coaching staff before we can present them to Troy and let him execute those things."

On where you see their strength in their blitz packages:

"[Head coach] [Steve] Spagnuolo is one of the best defensive coordinators in the business, and he's not going to allow you to hide. So, he's going to bring it from all angles and he's going to test you. He's going to make sure you are sound in all areas in order to execute against that defense, and that's what we're preparing for. We're preparing and making sure that we're sound so that we can execute our offense in the face of all that."

On how far G Mike Iupati and T Anthony Davis have come along:

"I think they're getting better, they're becoming more comfortable. I think our offensive line is executing better as a group and we are becoming a more physical football team. I think our pad level is coming down and we're doing a little better job individually one on one pass blocking, and I think we're not having some of the misses that we had earlier in the season. It's going to be another tough test this week, but I think they're getting better as a group overall as an offensive line."

On whether you talk about getting Anthony Davis more help on his side:

"He's on an island, but that's what the tackle business is in the NFL. You can keep help in, but then you play teams like the Denver Broncos and you play teams like the St. Louis Rams and the more people you keep in the more people they bring, and it's a catch-22. Sometimes you have to allow people to get out to give the quarterback quick outlets so that he can throw the ball quickly in case they do get beat, or you have a blitz where they bring one more than you can protect."

On whether you have to focus on taking advantage of their linebackers being out of position and over pursuing:

"We're putting together an offense to kind of counter some of the things that they do, so [LB] [James] Laurinaitis is a smart middle linebacker, he's always in good position to make plays in their blitz scheme, and you see the improvements that they've made last year to this year. They're not making as many mistakes in their blitzes that they made last year, and they're a better defense, but we are preparing to counter all the things that they do and get the ball to our people in enough plays where we can make more plays than they do."

On S Michael Lewis and how much he will be able to share about this offense:

"I don't think that's going to be a big deal this week. I think he knows some of the things that we've done. If you look at some of the things that we're doing now, they're a little bit different than what he saw when he was here. I don't think he can tell them enough about our offense to make a difference in what they do or to counter attack us in that way."

On whether you have had a chance to talk to Troy Smith since he has played and how would you evaluate game one:

"I give him a plus for game one because we won, and that's how we evaluate the quarterbacks here. If we win the game, then you played well enough to win. It's not about numbers, it's not about how many yards we run for or throw for, if we get the win and the W, then I think they've done enough to be effective. I think the one thing that he did do in spite of some of the struggles that he had early was he didn't turn the ball over. He gave our team a chance to come out the second half and be more effective and make plays, and he did that. That's the number one thing that we make sure that we do is take care of the ball."

On whether the deep pass play to TE Delanie Walker was an ill advised decision:

"Well it's not ill advised if he catches it."

On whether you would want him to make that throw again:

"I mean he came out and he was trying to make a play, and he made a play. It was a 39-yard gain I think what it was and it got us down to the 1-yard line. So sometimes you have to take chances like that as a quarterback and give guys like Delanie, [TE] Vernon [Davis], and [WR] [Michael] Crabtree and those guys chances to make plays down the field."

On how you envision all the TEs together as it is the first time for you with Vernon and Delanie being healthy at the same time this season:

"I agree. I'm excited about that and that possibility. I think they present problems for a defense because they can run block, but they can also get vertical on you if you're trying to overload the box and attack the run. We had them for the first series of the Atlanta game and this will be the first time together, so I think that's going to help our offense if we can keep those guys on the field together and attack the defense and put pressure on certain personnel group packages that we have."

On whether you saw an effect on Denver's defense after Troy made that first deep ball throw:

"I don't think that had a real affect. I think they had a game plan where they were going to play a little bit more zone then we anticipated. They had been a man defensive football team and they played a lot of zone for whatever reason. They were trying to get an extra guy in the box on the run and the 2nd play was a shot over the top. We had a couple of vertical possibilities but they brought blitzes and we had to break the route off and throw slants from the backside as outlets. We're going to try to attack teams vertically and make sure that they can't just load the box on [RB] [Frank] Gore and our other parts of our running game."

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