49ers 2010 OTAs: Best way to improve that third down offense?

The 49ers opened up their last set of OTAs yesterday, with a final mandatory minicamp scheduled for this weekend. The team also announced official dates for training camp:

Rookies Report - Friday, July 30
Veterans Report - Saturday, July 31
First practice session - Monday, August 2

At the end of practice today, Coach Singletary conducted a media session and addressed a wide variety of issues. One of the more amusing exchanges (at least to me), involved third down:

On whether third down is a focus for him this year:

"I think it's one thing to me - ‘Well, we didn't do as well on third downs,' but first downs, second downs, third downs, everyone you get, you want to execute. That's kind of how I'd look at it. A lot of people have different philosophies about that. I just think you get everything you can on every down. You just execute and let the play take care of itself."

On whether the issues on third down were related to first downs:

"Obviously, yes, but the point I'm trying to make is if you are continuing to get first downs, when you have a second down, you execute. I believe every play on offense should be a good play and the thing that I want us to do is not concentrate so much on third down that we forget the first and second downs. I want to play every down as if it's our last, and execute each one. That's where I want to go."

I understand the general issue that was being raised with these questions, but when it comes to third down, aren't any issues on third down generally going to be related to performance on first down? I suppose a team could be very solid on first down, and struggle on second and third. However, without having a single shred of proof in hand, I'd argue more often than not, when a team struggles on third down, it's because first and second down offense has put them in a bad situation.

The 49ers finished 16th in offensive third down DVOA last year. They finished 24th on first down and dead last on second down. Based on that, without any other context, one could argue they were actually fairly solid on third down. They were 3rd on third and short, 19th on third and mid, and 26th on third and long. So take that however you want. Whatever the case, the team definitely needs to improve on first and second down. Let's hope a potentially improved offensive line, and some continuity on offense will take care of these issues.

Head Coach Mike Singletary
Post-Practice - June 16, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

Opening Statement:

"All I can say is I'm pleased overall with how the [Organized Team Activities] have been going. With the progression of it, I think we got a lot of learning done. Obviously, we have a lot more work to do. I thought our offense got better, I thought Alex did a great job of having a command of the offense and executing the offense fairly well. I thought the receivers did a good job. The O-line continues to progress. I think [offensive line coach] Mike Solari is doing a great job, he and [assistant offensive line] Coach Brown. On the defensive side of the ball, our D-line is working. Our linebackers, it was great to see [LB Patrick] Willis back in the mix. It's a work in progress, but I think we'll get better."

On whether third down is a focus for him this year:

"I think it's one thing to me - ‘Well, we didn't do as well on third downs,' but first downs, second downs, third downs, everyone you get, you want to execute. That's kind of how I'd look at it. A lot of people have different philosophies about that. I just think you get everything you can on every down. You just execute and let the play take care of itself."

On whether the issues on third down were related to first downs:

"Obviously, yes, but the point I'm trying to make is if you are continuing to get first downs, when you have a second down, you execute. I believe every play on offense should be a good play and the thing that I want us to do is not concentrate so much on third down that we forget the first and second downs. I want to play every down as if it's our last, and execute each one. That's where I want to go."

On whether anything changes heading into the minicamp:

"No, I just think it's the basic progression. We want to make sure that it's a constant build to where we want to go. Right now with the OTAs, we want to make sure there are some things that we want to get reps on offense and defense so that once we get into training camp mode, we can do it faster. We can play faster. So basic progression is what we are striving for."

On whether NT Aubrayo Franklin or LB Manny Lawson will be here for minicamp:

"As far as I know, I have heard that Aubrayo will not be here, which does not bother me one bit. Manny is not here, does not bother me one bit. Those guys are working. They are doing what they need to do. I'll see them when I see them."

On whether Lawson will be fined for not being here:

"I don't want to get into all that. I'll just say if Manny's not here, I know he's working."

On whether he's concerned that TE Vernon Davis has too much going on in his life outside of football:

"Maybe he needs it. Some people need to stay busy. Some people need to do a lot of different things. Some people can. I'm not one of them, but whatever suits him, as long as he's doing what he needs to do, taking care of business, I'm fine."

On whether he sees the commitment on the field:

"Absolutely."

On how Franklin's absence affects his contract and whether he's not concerned about him being here:

"No, I'm not. I know he'll be here when it counts"

On some of the things that he was less than satisfied with during OTAs:

"There are too many things that I could stand here and say, ‘Well, I wasn't pleased with this, I wasn't pleased with that.' I think the focus is to come out here and get better, so I'm always looking at, ‘What are we doing to get better?' So, it's kind of hard for me to look back at the things I don't like. I know I get the feel when I'm looking at it. The most important thing on the offense was to gain some consistency, was to get a flow for Alex to continue to have a command of the offense so they are operating and they executing and that's what I'm beginning to see more and more."

On T Anthony Davis and G Mike Iupati's progress:

"It's going to be an up and down process. We're out here, once again we have no pads on. Right now, they're trying to learn. They're trying to learn the offense. Once we get into training camp we'll have a much better idea where they are because now you've got to play fast. You have to respond to what's in front of you. It's not enough to just know what to do, you have to know what to do and you've got to go fast. So, we'll know more on that once we get into training camp."

On after seeing the depth at cornerback and whether they have to revisit CB Dre Bly and see what's out there:

"I think it's a work in progress, I really do. I think [CB] Karl Paymah, he came here, he's a guy that has a lot of potential and hopefully between now and the end of training camp he can take that potential and make it something real. [Tarell] Brown continues to work his tail off and it's just a matter of technique. We've got a couple of young guys, the [Phillip] Adams kid, I think he's working, the [Tramaine] Brock kid, I think he's working. It's just been an opportunity for them to get more reps. It's good to see them respond and good to be able to see them get that many reps."

On whether there is any urgency to get another cornerback:

"What we have is what we have. I think we're ok with what we have."

On how he would assess QB David Carr's progress:

"I thought he was doing pretty good until that last pass. I think David is doing just fine. I think he's a guy that's continuing to learn the offense. He's a guy that is a smart guy and I think in time he will show why we got him."

On whether there are any specific things he will be looking for in minicamp:

"No, I'm not. The other veterans that are coming in, whoever they might be, whether it's [CB] Shawntae [Spencer] or [CB] Nate [Clements], it will be good to see them. I'd like to see how much better the defense looks once they're in. It's close to being the full 11 there. The competition is good. I just want to continue seeing our guys learn it and work together and work more and more into the execution mode of doing it exactly right. That's what I want to see going into the minicamps."

On whether Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements will be at minicamp:

"As far as I know. That could change, but as far as I know, they'll be here."

On the two-minute drill and how happy he was with the offense scoring the touchdown:

"It depends on what you're a fan of. If you like the defense, not good. If you like the offense, good. I think the offense did OK. I think [QB] Alex [Smith] did a nice job of finding the open receivers. I think the O-line did a good job with communication and the protection was good. I think overall it was good. We had the one mental breakdown on defense. We've got to look at that and make sure that we address that. Somebody blew a fuse back there. But overall it was OK."

On him having a goal of not saying as much to the officials this year:

"I mean that. It's full seriousness and I mean that."

On whether it was because he was penalized:

"No, it had nothing to do with anything else or anything the league did or anything that anybody said. It's just that I tell my players I don't want them arguing with the referees. So, if I'm telling them I don't want them to do it, then I need to lead by example the same way. It's as simple as that. Bottom line is it doesn't accomplish anything anyways. All it does is really tick me off. I'll just leave that to the ref."

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