49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman chatted with the media before practice and was fairly effusive in his praise for fullback Bruce Miller. He described him as getting better every day and a guy who can get a correction on a mistake and he generally won't make that mistake again. Add in a little more swagger as he makes more and more receptions and provides better and better blocks, and it seems like he is solidifying his role as the team's fullback.
There has been no further word on Moran Norris so it's hard to tell what the team's plans are when his fibula heals. If Miller continues to improve as he has, I've got to think Miller secures the job. Sometimes you hear coaches say a player won't lose a job to an injury, but we know that is not really the case when it comes to getting the best players on the field. Does anybody think the team tries to work Norris back into play? I suppose it's hard to be objective on that, but anybody? Bueller? Bueller?
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - October 6, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
"First time I was impressed with the Tampa defense is when I got here and we started watching last year's film. I'd say that they had a pretty dominant performance out here at The Stick last year. Really opened my eyes to what they're doing there. They've got a lot of talented players, there's nothing not to be impressed with. They've got a young, very talented front four. I actually coached against two of these guys when I was at Stanford, [Buccaneers DT Gerald] McCoy and [Buccaneers DT Brian] Price. They were a handful then, they're a handful now. Extremely active up front, got great experience at the corners. It's hard to believe that [Buccaneers CB] Ronde Barber is still playing, at a high level no less. He's seen it all, very savvy player. So, they've got good players, good scheme and we're knee deep in it right now in our preparation. I'll throw it out to you."
Did you see an improvement from FB Bruce Miller from week three to week four in his blocking?
"I've seen an improvement in Bruce every day, really. He's gotten better since he's gotten here. He's one of those guys that when you correct something, it gets corrected and you really don't have to revisit it. He puts things behind him and moves on and that's the key. Very encouraging with him, great attitude, just a sponge, and a pretty physical guy."
He had that catch that he turned into a nice gain along the sideline and he sort of flipped the ball to the defender and it showed a little bit of fire and passion with him?
"A little swagger perhaps?"
Yeah, a little swagger. From a rookie, that's sometimes rare.
"Well, he did a great job. First of all, it was a pinpoint throw, about eight inches in front of his front number which allowed him to continue in stride. Then we call it violence on the boundary, he dropped his shoulder and nailed the defender to the ground. So, really perfectly executed play."
You mentioned the pinpoint throw; QB Alex Smith also hit WR Joshua Morgan in stride. First half, it seemed like things were just a little bit off. What happened in that second half to make things click?
"I'd say early in the last game, I'd say we drove the ball down the field, we just didn't finish. Drove the ball down the field, didn't finish. So we really just needed to finish better and just execute and finish our drives. I think you hit it on the head really, just a little thing here, a thing there. Those got cleaned up and we were able to finish drives."
Nothing changed, right? You guys were sticking with the same stuff you always do?
"Nope, same stuff, same plays. I think we threw it 2:1 ration on the first half, about what we did in the second half. It was just better execution. I know that's boring, but it's the truth."
DT Isaac Sopoaga has really, last week in particular, played a lot of snaps and done a good job. If you guys don't have him, you probably won't have him, how much does that change what you do or do you have to rely on different packages in those short yardage situations?
"We'll adapt. Isaac is, first of all, his coach [Defensive Line coach] Jim Tomsula was so excited when we first talked to him about using him on offense, which is refreshing. He's the most thrilled guy when he heard, a big smile on his face. I think it started there. Really, when you look at Isaac's notebook at his notes he takes, it's unbelievable. I should bring it down here and show it to you sometime. He was a great presence in there. He's a passionate guy, really has embraced that role. We'll have to come up with something else."
Were you able to use him more in that game because he wasn't playing a lot of nose tackle?
"Perhaps. I think when we need him, he'll be ready regardless."
Obviously competing against the Eagles and their very good defensive backfield, what are some of the nuances the Buccaneers defensive backs bring?
"I think the coverages they play are different for the most part. Their coverage scheme is maybe a little more traditional than what Philly plays. You've got a guy back there, Barber, that has been doing it for so long, so he can kind of play around the edges so to speak, and use his instinct to try to make interceptions, etcetera. So,you always have to understand where he is. They're not afraid to get up in your face and play man. They do it quite a bit. They're going to get up and jam you and play man, which Philly does as well. Overall, I'd say the Tampa scheme still has its routes in the Tony Dungy coverage system."
How much do the Eagles play man after looking at the film, what percentage do you think?
"The Eagles play really a matchup zone, which turns into man. Depending on the route you run, it could look like man, it could look like zone. But they play a high percentage of man."
From what you've seen, is WR Michael Crabtree 100 percent now?
"I think he's getting there. I've never seen him fully healthy. He's working hard, he's getting there. I'd say he's right around 100 percent, if he's not. He definitely is not showing any signs of the injury."
It was suggested this morning on the radio that you guys saw a weakness in Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha and attacked him in the second half of that game. Is that an accurate description?
"I think we had a pretty good feel for him before the game. Just as things progressed, we ended up going to the left side of the field more."
Was he on TE Vernon Davis more than you thought he might be?
"No, we pretty much figured that would happen."
At Stanford and here, you had a powerrunning philosophy. The NFL more and more seems to be going to passing and airing it out. What is the philosophy behind having a power runner?
"I think you've got to look at the players you have when you design your attack. I think you want to have a multidimensional attack that can't be shoved into a box. Because, really, the way we look at it, anybody can stop a play if they know it's coming, really, with numbers or stunts, etcetera. So, you want to have a diverse attack that accounts for different defenses and then it comes down to what your own team is good at and can be good at. We're still figuring that out, I think that's a work in progress, but it all comes down to execution. A power running game allows you to wear people down over the course of the game, probably more so than a zone running game does. It also probably gives you more opportunity to complement the play action."
Did Alex Smith show you something the second half that you didn't know about him?
"No, really didn't show me anything that we know he can't do. He played a great half, plain and simple. I think there's times when you just have to make the throw, you have to read it right, you have to make the play. And he did that. That allowed us to come back and win that last game. It was very similar to the week before, really."
Last couple of weeks we've seen that RB Kendall Hunter can do quite a bit on the perimeter as far as toss plays and sweeps and things like that. Is that your preference to kind of have a thunder and lightning kind of backfield or would you prefer, ideally, to have two backs that can be interchangeable and do the exact same things?
"Really, you like guys that can do it all. Kendall can run it inside and he can run it outside, as can Frank. We've all seen that. I wouldn't typecast them as such, one guy's inside, one guy's outside. As Kendall gets more experience, and he's done a great job, he's going to be a complete player. Really, really like Kendall Hunter."