49ers Training Camp: Nate Davis and Anthony Dixon to be tested

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Earlier today this topic came up in discussion, but upon receiving the transcripts from today's media sessions, I thought it was worth pulling it out in a separate post. Earlier today offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye spoke specifically about preseason playing time as it applies to running back Anthony Dixon and quarterback Nate Davis:

On whether RB Anthony Dixon's performance against Indianapolis solidifies him as the No. 2 running back:

"I think he put himself in position, obviously, to warrant more snaps and earlier snaps against better competition to see if there really is something, if that really manifests itself when he plays more snaps and against better competition.

On what earlier snaps means for Dixon:

"Earlier in a preseason game."

On QB Nate Davis' progress in games versus practice:

"Well, visually yes. I mean from an aesthetic standpoint, yes it would be. He has progressed you know, he has. The one ability that he has highlighted when he plays in the parts of the game that he plays in because if a guy is open, he'll hit him, he will get the ball to them. He is another guy that's in a position where he needs to play early on against guys who have played in the NFL. He needs to play in that level, and see where he is in his development, depth wise."

On whether that could happen in the upcoming preseason games:

"Yes, we need to do a couple of things at that position. So in terms of earlier play in the second and third exhibition games, we will experiment with some of that."

As I mentioned a couple days ago in regards to Nate Davis, the time has come to get a better idea of what Nate Davis brings to the table. In the current context, that means more snaps earlier in preseason games. Obviously your starters need to work on getting rid of the rust, but the preseason is also about seeing what your young guys can do.

The same holds true for Anthony Dixon. And in fact, it's an even bigger deal with Dixon. Frank Gore gets banged up on occasion and Brian Westbrook has had a lot of injury concerns over the years. Dixon is likely to see more playing time in the regular season than Nate Davis, so you might as well see what he does against first and second string defenses instead of slightly tired second string defenses and then third and fourth string defenses.

This kind of discussion actually gets me even more excited about this Sunday's game against the Vikings. Let's hope we see a lot of both of them.

Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye
Post- Morning Practice - August 18, 2010
San Francisco 49ers 

On evaluating exhibition games:

"Well basically what we try to do is, and I think I alluded to this earlier last week in the time that we were here, is we try to give them an opportunity for the first time with a simple installation, to be able to go down the street and fight their brother because they've been practicing against each other and have been around each other since March, and practicing against each other and gotten pretty comfortable in that environment. So then we like to see them in a competitive environment without a whole lot of assignment responsibility changes, just see them play in a competitive environment and evaluate that process. You incrementally increase that as you head toward the final exhibition game as you get more solidarity and head more toward a game plan situation to start the season. So the stats are not functional for us in an exhibition game, particularly the first one and the second one. We're really looking to see how clear the picture is and let them use their athleticism and play within the framework of what we've given them up until this point."

On QB Alex Smith's development:

"I think it has been outstanding. I think the game, the pace visually and mentally, has slowed down for him now. I think he's comfortable with what he's seeing and what the calls are. I would expect as he builds toward the start of the championship season that he'll hit the ground running. I think it would be asinine to judge a quarterback in an exhibition season, based on the idea of people and plays and changes that are in and out and not a game plan situation. To make a judgment on statistics, statistical analysis on what a quarterback does, for me in the preseason, would not be wholesome at all."

On whether he is changing schemes now that RB Brian Westbrook has joined the team:

"No, not we haven't done that at all. We will, I don't really know Brian Westbrook as a player. I know his reputation. Until we get him indoctrinated into the things that we run, the fundamental that he has to learn, we'll make the decision on that going forward. We would like, you know obviously with his experience and the kind of production that he's had, we'd like to get in a situation where as we go forward that maybe we can incorporate him in some things that would take care of his abilities, but as it is right now he's in the same road that [running back] Glen Coffee would have been in; in a position to learn and play some snaps behind [running back] Frank Gore. And I would probably feel a little differently about this had we not experience what we did over in Indianapolis on Sunday because to me it's not an open-and-closed deal. I think [running back] Anthony Dixon is very much in the running for vying for time at that position as the guy that goes in to replace Gore."

On whether he finds Westbrook's reputation as a receiver intriguing:

"Yes it is. And then I have to measure that against the exposure of the quarterback with a young offensive line. I can't get so enamored with trying to get something done for Brian Westbrook that it doesn't allow us, to allow the offensive line guys, to develop so that we can stand up and play upright. So all of that will take care of itself as we go forward, but we have a maturing thing that's going on in terms of the continuity and the front, and until we solidify ground with the front, then all of the frills and thrills of the external part of it has to take a back seat."

On whether RB Anthony Dixon's performance against Indianapolis solidifies him as the No. 2 running back:

"I think he put himself in position, obviously, to warrant more snaps and earlier snaps against better competition to see if there really is something, if that really manifests itself when he plays more snaps and against better competition.

On what earlier snaps means for Dixon:

"Earlier in a preseason game."

On what Dixon showed in the preseason game against Indianapolis versus camp:

"The physicality of which he ran with the football, his ability when people would cut clean on him in the backfield to take a minus-five-yard play and make it a 19-yard play. His ability to play without the ball was something that we had some concerns about. He demonstrated, again it was his first outing, but he demonstrated that he has different from what we've seen in practice in a live situation. So I think it helped him get in a position where he should get more consideration and more time and be vying. He was a very good special teams player and you can't judge that until you actually get a live situation. So all in all, the performance with the ball was, for a first-year guy and a first opportunity, was pretty good."

On how he will incorporate Westbrook:

"Well if I tell you that then I might as well tell the whole league. We'll determine that as we go."

On how important it is for the first-team offense to build success in the next two games:

"I think it's important. I think it's like anything else; you need to have some reassurance that what you're doing gives you some instant gratification. You don't want to go into the start of the league season not having made first downs, not having converted on third downs, wondering are we going to, if this going to turn around when the season starts - because now you're in a hope situation rather than an expectation situation and what you'd like to get done, as they play 15 plays, or a quarter, or 30 plays, or two halves, you'd like for them to have some success so they can realize what they're doing in training camp; all the time and energy they put in and headed toward their league season that they're in a position to go play, rather than wondering if it's going to come together."

On WR Dominique Zeigler:

"Dominique has had an outstanding camp. But a year ago I saw in him do the same things. It just didn't come to fruition because in the last exhibition game down in San Diego he got a high ankle sprain. He had shown the same qualities. This time he's stayed, he's been healthy and he's taken another step in terms of his familiarity and the confidence that [quarterback] Alex Smith has in him. Right now it's what you've seen in a pretty good performance."

On whether Zeigler's injury last year affected his roster spot

"He was certainly in contention to make the active roster, yes."

On whether the absence of TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree stalls the development of the offense:

"Yeah, it's always a constant changing deal for the quarterback, and at same point the unit needs to be together and practicing together, and that has been hit or miss with the injuries. You kind of expect that in training camp a little bit, but it's gone on, for us it has gone on longer than usually. So we have one in and one out or both out, not in; but we have to adjust to that and go on and whenever they're healthy and they're ready to go, then we'll try to pick up and do double time and get ourselves in a position where we get to where we want to be going into the league season."

On QB Nate Davis' progress in games versus practice:

"Well, visually yes. I mean from an aesthetic standpoint, yes it would be. He has progressed you know, he has. The one ability that he has highlighted when he plays in the parts of the game that he plays in because if a guy is open, he'll hit him, he will get the ball to them. He is another guy that's in a position where he needs to play early on against guys who have played in the NFL. He needs to play in that level, and see where he is in his development, depth wise."

On whether that could happen in the upcoming preseason games:

"Yes, we need to do a couple of things at that position. So in terms of earlier play in the second and third exhibition games, we will experiment with some of that."

On TE Nate Byham's progress and his blocking abilities:

"Well, we saw  some semblance of it in the spring of the year. Usually you can tell about a young guy when he is not in pads and it's an up-tempo drill, he showed no back down and he didn't have pads on so you wouldn't know if it would transfer. Usually if a guy without pads will do the same things with his hat and his head without pads on that he does with pads on, it's a pretty good sign. He has been nicked up some, but to this point he has been pretty good in that area in terms of inline blocking, and he has the ability also to play a little bit in the backfield as a fullback. So the F position has created a good opportunity for him if he keeps developing."

On Vikings' QB Brett Favre coming back:

"I'm coming back! Well having been around him, he is a unique gift as it is similar to Warren Moon when I had him at 44. Those guys that have that God-given talent that throw a football and have their arms tied to their brain, they are very unique, and the fact that he has taken very good care of himself has extended his career so he can still get out of the way. Usually what stops an older guy is the lacking of mobility and the pressure when people blitz him, but he can still get the ball out. He is still in pretty good shape. I think New Orleans went after him pretty good in the one game and beat him up, but he's a warrior. He still has great arm talent and arm speed. And his velocity is still there. And his body is, at least for when I was last with him, his body was relatively young in terms of his chronological age, so he's been able to play and stay healthy. I don't think he has missed a game in probably 300 starts or something, which is rare, but I'm not surprised at all he is still playing."

On whether Westbrook will play this weekend against the Vikings:

"Well, we'll check with the medical staff and the trainers. What we don't want to do is put him out there and he's not sure of what he's doing. He hasn't been to a training camp or an offseason program all offseason, and to create a strain, create a situation physically that we could avoid if were just to be patient and take our time. So that will depend as we get further along in the week. He took some snaps today and was being told what to do. He is a pretty smart guy, so I think he will pick it up as he transfers the terminology from where he's been for eight years to what we're doing and saying, so there's a chance he could get some work if the trainers and the medical people think it's prudent."

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