49ers Vs. Packers: A Little Colin Kaepernick, Less LaMichael James?

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman spoke with the media yesterday, and while he did not give much away in terms of game-planning, he did provide an opportunity for some speculation about the 49ers offensive game plan heading into Green Bay.

Roman was asked about the read option and if it was ready for the regular season. The 49ers showed a lot of effectiveness with the play in preseason play as Colin Kaepernick and LaMichael James did some nasty work with it. It remains to be seen if Kaepernick and James will be featured on Sunday, but the team seems prepared to mix it up with these kinds of plays, even if Alex Smith is the one running them.

Roman acknowledged some consideration of dropping Colin Kaepernick into the game for a series or two, but he was quick to change the subject back to Alex Smith:

"I think you definitely discuss it. But we have full confidence in [QB] Alex [Smith]. We like when Alex is out there leading us. I think Kap gives you the flexibility to be able to talk about that and feel good about it and plan for it. I think it's just good change of pace and makes the defense prepare for something different. So, it's definitely a possibility."

He stated that Alex Smith was just as capable of running the read option. He has shown his fair share of athletic ability, most notably on his quarterback keeper against the Saints. But he has always been an athletic and mobile quarterback. He doesn't always use his legs, but he has proven effective at times when he so chooses.

If the team does decide to run the read option, it will be interesting to see if the team works in LaMichael James. We have had plenty of chatter about what exactly his role will be on Sundays, but for his rookie year we might need to temper expectations a bit:

Given your depth, is it going to be tough maybe for WR A.J. Jenkins and RB LaMichael James to get out there once initially in the first regular game?

"It quite possibly may be. And if it is, it'd be of little concern to us. We're more worried about the development of the player. As a player in the National Football League, try to think big picture and developing a young player. They will have I'm sure a role in that time frame. But, how big that is, that's of little concern. It's the ongoing development, building the right habits, making sure we're moving forward in our development. That's the most important thing."

I find myself wondering if Roman is playing some games with regards to James. We have not really seen a whole lot of him this preseason. He was featured in the read option, and he showed some skills running with the ball on some more traditional rushing plays. But the team has kept him under wraps to a certain extent. Does this mean we won't see much early in the season, or does this mean the team is playing possum with him? I think it's the latter, but we'll find out a whole lot more on Sunday.

Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - September 6, 2012
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening Statement:

"Good afternoon. We had a really good training camp. Thought our guys were dialed in every day. I think we got accomplished what we wanted accomplished in camp and we're able to turn the page here this week, get into the regular season. So, obviously we're knee deep in Green Bay. Looking forward to the challenge, it's a great challenge. They won 15 games last year and when you look at them, you watch their defense, they really play great complimentary team football. They got 38 turnovers last year which I believe was tied with our defense for the best in the league. They're an aggressive, attacking style which allows them to create turnovers and very multiple schemed, very well coached. And when you look at the big picture, it's worked pretty darn well for them. So, we've got to be on it. They give you a lot of looks, they have very good players and we're excited for the challenge. Any questions?"

Head coach Jim Harbaugh talks about your creativity, you come up with so many different things. With the different pieces you've got this year, how much more creative can you be and are we going to be able to see this right away do you think? Just from the outside, as dumb as we are?

"Well, that was very kind of coach to say that. But, it's all going to come down to the players on the field, especially in the first game. We don't know what they're going to do, we can only guess. They probably don't know what we're going to do. So, it's going to come down purely to the players playing football on the field. Especially the first game, when you're not quite sure what the other team is going to do. With the new pieces in our offense, I'm sure you'll see an evolution throughout the season of us just getting to know them even better as we go. But, we'll have to see on Sunday how that looks."

As far what they're going to do, have you sat down with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, obviously very familiar with that, at least the concepts of that defensive system and kind of pick his brain about that defense?

"Well that defense really was founded in '92 in Pittsburgh, and it has stood the test of time to say the least. Vic knows it as well as anybody. The great thing for us is we get to practice against it every day now. Now, there are some differences, and the personnel is different. But, Vic's a great resource for football. Vic's been a great resource for me my entire career. He is one of the smartest football coaches I've ever met. I ask Vic about every team we play, to be quite honest with you because he is an encyclopedia of football. Every team we play, I will talk to Vic about at times. So, this defense being no different."

How do you expect the Packers to use Charles Woodson, moving to safety?

"I think Woodson is such a difference maker and he's played so many different positions - sort of like Rod Woodson was in Pittsburgh, making the transition from corner to safety. I think he could play corner, safety and nickel. Really when you look at their nickel or dime defense, he can play any position in their dime defense. Rather than waste time wondering, we've just got to play football. He's that talented a player. That knowledgeable a player that we're fully expecting him to play multiple positions. If he doesn't he doesn't, but so be it. I think he's interchangeable. They're going to do what they want to do and that's great."

Do you feel like the read option is ready for the regular season?

"The read option is a good football concept and it's something that we've done. You can do it a lot of different ways, there's a lot of different ways to do it. I've seen other teams do it. So, it's a football play like any other and it can be run at any time."

What about the inspiration for it, where did you learn?

"My first knowledge of it, the head coach at Western Kentucky now, who I worked with, Willie Taggart. Really was a very good teacher. He and I sat down at Stanford, and he coached me up on a lot of different things. And it just kind of, like anything else, evolves from there. But Willie was really the first guy that taught me all the little different aspects of it."

Did you do it with Colts QB Andrew Luck a little bit at Stanford?

"We sure did. Yeah, Andrew would do it by himself sometimes as well, if he saw a certain look. He would pull the ball. There's 11 guys on defense, there's 10 guys on offense, when you factor the quarterback, you subtract the quarterback. So, it evens out the numbers, offense versus defense. Nobody is covering the quarterback most of the time. Or nobody is accounting for the gap he creates, or he as a ball carrier."

And QB Alex Smith is definitely a guy who can run this, not just QB Colin Kaepernick?

"Oh yeah. Alex ran some last year. Yeah, he sure did. He did a really good job with it. He sure did."

When the schedule came out in mid-April, did you immediately start going through Packers stuff, knowing they were your next opponent?

"I think every team in the NFL, man they are just chomping at the bit. I think this is just universal. They are chomping. We were chomping at the bit to find out who the first opponents are going to be, when is the schedule coming out, did anybody call yet, because sometimes the league will call you early and you'll find out. So, a bunch of people running around the building, has the call come in yet, has the call come in yet? I know it's universal, 32 teams once they find out, bam. Then they start the preparation for their season and how it's going to unfold."

Is it just the Week 1 opponent or is it also Week 2 and 3?

"Everybody looks at the opening salvo really and just kind of starts to think ahead."

What do you see in the front seven of the Packers? We know the pass rush with LB Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, what do you see from them?

"That's a good question. We have a lot of respect for their defense and Clay Matthews is just a dynamic player. He has a great feel for the game of football. He knows how to take blocks on. He can feel when a tackle is drifting he's going to come back inside. He can feel and he knows how to sequence his stuff during a game where, hey this guy overcompensated one time and I got him this way, therefore I'm going to set him up for that again and then beat him back the other way. He knows how to destroy blocking schemes. He's very heady in coverage. He's had some pick sixes in his career. I remember watching one yesterday that he had last year. The rookie Nick Perry is an extremely powerful player. He's just been killing tight ends this preseason. He's got an incredibly strong lower body. He looks like a defensive end, which he played in college at USC. He's extremely powerful and sets a mean edge. [DT B.J.] Raji, huge presence in the middle. Our guys inside, it's just going to be a real physical battle in there because he's so strong.. He's got a really, really good quickness too for a big man. Their inside linebackers, their front seven, they play very well together."

This might be a little bit of the gameplan, so I apologize in advance, but how do you feel philosophically about dropping QB Colin Kaepernick in for a series our two every game?

"I think you definitely discuss it. But we have full confidence in [QB] Alex [Smith]. We like when Alex is out there leading us. I think Kap gives you the flexibility to be able to talk about that and feel good about it and plan for it. I think it's just good change of pace and makes the defense prepare for something different. So, it's definitely a possibility."

I'm sure the Packers are wondering, along with everybody else, us included, how are you going to use certain receivers and certain running backs with as much depth as you have? Do you guys go into it with a point-by-point plan of, Ok, the third series we're going to give this guy a break or do you just let the flow of the game dictate?

"We generally go in with a plan and be ready to adjust. I think you want to go in with a plan, and really with everything you do, we don't want to just wing it. I think you want to adjust when necessary. But that's something that we'll have a plan for and some things happen in the game of football that you just have to be ready to adjust for. I think you definitely want to know where to allocate your resources and your preparation and be as specific as you can. But at the same time, you can't be so rigid that you close off a lot of avenues for yourself. It's that simple. Try to come up with the best plan you can and be ready to adjust."

Green Bay, one of the top blitzing teams last year in percentage, does that play into Alex Smith's strengths and being able to figure out where the blitz is coming from and take advantage of that?

"Our center [Jonathan Goodwin] does a really good job of working in his protection schemes. Our center does a lot, as well as Alex. They are a heavy blitzing team at times. And at times they might just rush three guys. Against the [New York] Giants in the [NFC] championship game, or not in the championship game, the [NFC Divisional] playoff game last year, they only rushed three guys quite a bit. So I think it's game-by-game, opponent-by-opponent. And really for us, it's play-by-play. And what blitz is it? What protection are we in? It's play-by-play. It's one play at a time. But I'll tell you what, these guys have every blitz in the book and they've run them. They're a good pressure team, good disguise team and they challenge your rules, that's for sure. You might have to write some new rules for them. I really haven't seen anybody pressure quite as much as the Packers. I think when you look at their turnovers, it's got a lot to do with their turnovers."

Not even the New Orleans Saints last year?

"Well, not counting the Saints."

Given your depth, is it going to be tough maybe for WR A.J. Jenkins and RB LaMichael James to get out there once initially in the first regular game?

"It quite possibly may be. And if it is, it'd be of little concern to us. We're more worried about the development of the player. As a player in the National Football League, try to think big picture and developing a young player. They will have I'm sure a role in that time frame. But, how big that is, that's of little concern. It's the ongoing development, building the right habits, making sure we're moving forward in our development. That's the most important thing."

Is there still somewhat of an element of unknown with WR Randy Moss as far as when the games count, just how great he could be?

"Not for me. Randy's shown everything on the practice field that he can do. I say not for me, I should be saying not for us. We have full confidence in his ability. He's going to compete like everybody else. Nobody's got a crystal ball. Who knows what's going to happen? Who knows? But he's going to go out and compete. Let it rip. We have supreme confidence in him, as we do all our players".

We got a Sports Illustrated story that he's going to play about 25-30 snaps a game. Has that been established on how exactly you're going to use him?

"Absolutely not. No, that's something that we'll have a plan for and adjust if need be."

The weather at Lambeau Field is supposed to be about 70 degrees. Would you rather play there in that kind of condition where it might a little pass friendly or would you rather it be later in the season when it's colder

"You tell us when we're going, let's go. It doesn't matter. It's irrelevant. Here we go. Tell us when to show up."

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