Thursday was coordinator day for the media as Vic Fangio and Greg Roman each spoke with the media. I posted Fangio's press conference transcript earlier. Now it's on to offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
As we heard yesterday from Coach Harbaugh, DeMarcus Ware will be the big name to watch on Sunday. Of course, if the 49ers decide to add a second man to cover Ware or scheme to his side, OLB Anthony Spencer will be ready and waiting to pounce on the other side. The Cowboys secondary has numerous question marks this week with Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick out and Mike Jenkins questionable. However, if the pass rush can bring consistent heat, the 49ers passing game could struggle to get going.
Tre9er discussed the Cowboys pass rush a bit in his scouting report yesterday and we'll have some more on it tomorrow. As Tre pointed out, the short passing game will be crucial, particularly the successful use of screens, sweeps, slants and so forth. The 49ers have started to mix more sweeps in this season and hopefully Gore can bring some success with that.
The question then is if they'll be able to find some success with screens. I have seen them execute screens successfully in the past, but it is not something we've seen with great consistency. They tried one or two screens last week against the Seahawks but had little success. They've got the skill position players to make the screens work, but now they need to figure out what's up with the blocking on the screens.
It will be interesting to see how much double teaming the 49ers use against Ware, if they use any at all. This could be a particularly big test for Kendall Hunter. He's shown an ability to pick up blocks and he'll get a serious challenge from Ware on Sunday if the opportunity presents itself.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - September 15, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
"We're knee-deep in Dallas preparation. This defense presents a lot of challenges from a personnel standpoint as well as a scheme standpoint. They were real impressive the other night against the Jets and we're going to have our work cut out for us. We know it. We had a great start yesterday and looking forward to getting better. It's a big week for us to improve. I'll throw it out to y'all."
You guys signed RB Ian Johnson to the practice squad earlier this week and I'm doing a feature on him. What are a few things you like about him?
"Ian is from Boise State. He's a pretty nifty running back. He's been with a few clubs at this point and he's got some good quickness, he's picking things up pretty quickly. We're thrilled to have him and we'll evaluate him as we go and we'll get him indoctrinated in our system and see how he does."
How difficult is it to game plan for a Cowboys secondary when you really don't know who's going to be available there and who isn't. They've got some injury issues with a few guys."
"I think you nailed it right on the head. We don't know. Not sure who's going to show up there, but I'm sure they'll have their bases covered. They'll have somebody out there and I'm sure they'll be good. It changes things a little bit, but when you really look at their defense from a personnel standpoint and a scheme standpoint, they're pretty darn good. [Dallas defensive coordinator] Rob Ryan has got a very diverse history, so you're dealing with a lot of different schemes and their personnel is darn good. It really starts with those two edge guys, [Dallas LB DeMarcus] Ware and [Dallas LB Anthony] Spencer, 94 and 93, very good players. Ware is obviously an elite, elite player and I think we all saw that the other night against the Jets."
Was some of your game plan on Sunday dictated by getting an early lead, being up 16-0 at halftime? And then playing a little more run oriented?
"Well, I think every game takes on a life of its own and you're always playing to win. I think the flow of the game is going to dictate a lot of things, and it changes on the move. We didn't execute everything obviously the way we wanted to, but there were a lot of bright, positive things to build on. Thought the guys put together a great over nine minute drive there in the fourth quarter to get down to the goal line. We have to finish better there and we know that and we will. To answer your question specifically, every game is different and you have to be ready to adjust a little but during the game to get done the goal and that's to win. Simply to win."
From that standpoint, how does the Seattle game plan lead into the preparations for Dallas and what you expect from Rob Ryan's defense?
"I think they're two totally different systems, two totally different skill sets as you look at their personnel. It's one game is a life unto itself and then the next game is as well. We're planning for Dallas specifically and it's all about Dallas. It's the only game that counts right now. That game plan is going to be very specific to Dallas."
In that aspect, if you had to bet your last $100, do you consider that you probably see a pretty aggressive package in light of some of the preseason games or do you think you can deal with whatever Ryan comes up with?
"Well against Dallas you have to be ready for everything. You have to be ready for blitz, you have to be ready for three-man rush and they can change personalities very quickly. A very diverse scheme. That scheme is one that has some [Former NFL Head Coach] Buddy Ryan, some New England Bill Belichick, when Rob was with the Raiders it's got some flavors from the Raiders defense when he was there. He's constantly evolving. It could be blitz, it might not be. So, you have to be ready for everything."
Is DeMarcus Ware at the point where you have to double him every time?
"He's pretty good, he's pretty good. He's an elite player against the run and pass. You better have him factored into your game plan, yes."
When you're up there, will you be looking every time where he's lined up. Do you know where he's going to be lined up by your formation?
"You're not really sure. They'll move him around quite a bit. You have to be aware where number 94 is and account for him."
Is there anyone else in the league like him where you really have to pinpoint where he is before every snap?
"I think so. I think there are some guys in the league that are like that. [Colts DE] Dwight Freeney comes to mind. He's a unique player, unique players have great length and great strength. He's very explosive. He definitely is one of the elite, all-around defensive players in the league."
When the defensive scout team gets out there, do you determine who you want to see? Will a guy like LB Aldon Smith be DeMarcus Ware?
"No question. At times we may use him. I think you really want to, every week, try to match up your scout team as best you can to what you're about to face. So, Aldon, when he's not taking reps, he can give us some looks, that just helps us out."
C Jonathan Goodwin played this team a couple of years in a row. Do you go to him and ask him what he saw against NT Jay Ratliff and things like that heading in to this game?
"He definitely has some history. We've had a few conversations about it. I always love to ask those guys ‘Hey, when's the last time you played this team' and ‘What was your thought process going in? What happened that was different and how did you play against this guy?' That's one of the things I love to do. Jonathan is really good about that. He loves talking football, so I'm sure that conversation has or will take place. I think it's a good resource. We're always talking about our opponent during the week, so that's a great resource there."
What do you think of Ratliff?
"Very good player. He's good against the run and pass, he's got good length. Unique for that position, very productive."
Do you have any history against Rob Ryan before this, before this Sunday's meeting? Have you had any meetings before?
"Sure, I've coached with teams that he's been coaching for, but that's pretty irrelevant at this point. It's 49ers versus the Cowboys. I'm sure his system is evolving, too. Yeah, I have in the past, but definitely not going to play a factor in this game, it's going to be all about what happens on the field."
You guys use the backup lineman a lot as the tight end. Why not just stick with the back as the third tight end instead of a guy who is 60 pounds lighter?
"Well one's a lineman and one is the tight end. The tight end is a great third tight end, as much as we use tight ends, you want to build some contingency plans. We signed [TE] Justin Peelle and he's a guy that I have some history with. I worked with him coming out of college. He played in the league and been a player for awhile. He gives us a little flexibility there at the tight end position. The run and pass game."
Is he considered a blocking specialist?
"I think he's a pretty good tight end, all around tight end. Tough guy, good player."
I asked this to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, we all know that your team evolves as the season goes on. How do you feel in terms of getting a firm grasp of the full capabilities and limitations of the offense? When do you think you will really have complete control of how the team feels?
"I think that goes throughout the entire year and really never stops. Every defense plays a little bit different, a blitzing team, a coverage team, a Tampa 2 team, 4-3, 3-4, man coverage, zone coverage. So, every player you get to see how they react to different situations. Some weeks they have really tough matchups, some weeks they don't. Some weeks distress goes to different people, other week to others. It takes time to really get a feel for how the entire group matches up with the team you're playing. I think it's constantly evolving to answer your question."
Do you feel that your offense right now has that ability to put up a big passing game? It's not something that we've seen before.
"I think we're working really hard at the passing game and I think we're getting better all the time. There's only one place to see it and that's during the game when we have to. I'm not going to start talking strategy with you, but I think we have great confidence in our passing game and our players involved in the passing game."
WR Braylon Edwards and WR Joshua Morgan have sort of seemed to be streamlined as the first two receivers. What do you like about that pairing?
"I like the pairing of all of our receivers. We rotate them in and out quite a bit. Braylon is doing a great job at his job as is Ted [Ginn, Jr.] and [Michael] Crabtree as well. We have the ability to mix and match with all of those guys and they're all performing at a high level. Obviously they're all a little different but we love having them all out there."
One more receiver question. With Crabtree obviously working through something, is there any hesitance to use Ted Ginn Jr. a lot on offense, given his value on special teams?
"Teddy is a weapon on offense, too. A lot of guys play special teams and offense. We're not going to limit what he does on offense because of teams. He's a valuable player across the board really."