Greg Roman talks Jon Baldwin, J.J. Watt, LaMichael James and more

USA TODAY Sports

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman met with the media on Thursday. We take a look at his thoughts heading into Sunday's 49ers-Texans game. New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman met with the media earlier this week, and I wanted to post the transcript even though it is a couple days after the fact. Roman often does a good job covering up what he means in his press conferences, and yet we often still feel like we've heard something of note.

On Thursday, Roman discussed a whole host of topics. He got a couple different questions about J.J. Watt. The 49ers will be facing a defense with talent up and down the lineup, but Watt is the guy they likely have spent as much time as any scouting. In our chat with Battle Red Blog, we learned that Watt will likely line up over the right tackle, but will move if the strong side adjusts. For now, it looks like we can expect to see Alex Boone and Anthony Davis getting their share of work against Watt.

Roman also had a chance to briefly talk about wide receiver Jon Baldwin. Roman was asked if he expected Baldwin to be on the field for most of the 49ers two-wide receiver sets. Roman said he expected everybody to have a role, and that Baldwin's would be substantial. I don't know how much we can buy from that comment, but I do think we'll see Baldwin get some substantial opportunities this week. With Mario Manningham coming off the PUP list in the next few weeks, Baldwin faces a small window to prove he can provide something this season. Sunday is a pretty huge game for Baldwin.

Roman's most glaring example of trying to avoid a question was when he was asked about LaMichael James.

What are the challenges of trying to fit RB LaMichael James into the offense and finding a role for him in an offense that seems so base, so geared around the power running game?

"Well, I think we can change gears pretty quickly. With a player like LaMichael, it's really not a challenge to find things for him to do. He's a very important part of our offense and from week-to-week he's going to have a different role. I think we've seen that in the past where LaMichael steps in and now all of a sudden you've got a different style coming at the defense and allows you to do different things that focus more on his skill set. And we've seen that."

I don't know if we've ever seen it while RB Kendall Hunter's been healthy. Is there a lot of overlap between what those two guys do?

"I think they're unique, but I think you can do very similar things with them. And the more we stay on the field, the more we can utilize those weapons. So, it's definitely a function of how many plays you're running, how many opportunities you have during a game and try to forecast that when you're putting a plan together."

Will we see James with a more substantial role this week? Given the Texans significant pass rush, it could come down to how the 49ers feel about James in pass protection. Whether he is staying in to block, or simply chipping a defender on his way out on a pass route, his skills in pass protection could be the difference-maker for him getting on the field more frequently.

Opening comments:

"Good afternoon. Got a very good Houston team coming in, got a very complete defense. A playoff team, they've won a lot of games there as a complete team. When you look at their defense, it starts up front, but they're really talented at every level of their defense. When you look at their two defensive ends, [JJ] Watt and [Antonio] Smith, very, very good football players. Watt is unique, very unique player, plays with a frenetic style, very talented. The whole defense plays with very high motors. The linebacking crew, they're a 3-4 type of scheme, really led by [LB Brian] Cushing, who's sideline-to-sideline. And you look at their second with [DB Kareem] Jackson and [CB Jonathan] Joseph outside, very highly rated against the pass. And at the safeties, you've got [S Danieal] Manning and a Hall of Famer in [S Ed] Reed. So, we've got our hands full. We're really dialed in here, having a great week, had some great meetings today. Looking forward to having a great practice. Any questions?"

Do they keep Watt just on that left side or does he go side-to-side, either side?

"They'll move him around. Boy he can stir it up. He stirs it up run game, pass game, front side, back side, double teamed, single blocked. This guy is a handful. So, we're taking a hard look at studying him and he could appear anywhere really."

Are you looking forward to that G Alex Boone vs. Watt matchup? It seems like two guys who are at the very top of their game right now.

"Well, we're looking forward to whoever against Watt. Whoever that is is going to be in for a full day. Our guys are excited about the challenge and I don't think it's going to be just one guy against one guy all day, but I'm sure Alex will have a chance to block him."

Do you expect WR Jon Baldwin to be on the field in most of your two wide receiver sets?

"I think that everybody that's on the 53 and makes it to the game day is very important to our team. Everybody's going to have a role and Jonathan will definitely have a substantial role."

Is it time for him though to step up and become a play-making receiver for you guys?

"I think it's all about opportunity and I think the opportunities that he was given last week, shoot I was very encouraged by it. I love to see guys play physical and make plays when opportunities come their way. I'm sure he'll be getting plenty of opportunities this week and he's got to take advantage of them."

There's such a discrepancy, overall the defense ranked number one, but between their pass defense and their run defense. Statistics are one thing, but when you're looking at their game film, what do you see that would lead to that discrepancy?

"As far as Houston Texans defense? That's a hard one to nail down. I think a couple people popped a few runs, which kind of tilted the stats a little bit. But overall I think they're a very complete defense and play the run and pass equally well."

You talked a lot about precision after the Colts game. Did you find there was a lot more precise game against the Rams, any examples of that better than what you saw against Indianapolis?

"I definitely think we played a more precise game. But boy there was a lot of things, I think, that we can still improve on. We got a chance to look at that tape and kind of detail that out, but yeah I definitely think that game was really just the players. All the credit goes to them and how they performed, the intensity with which they played and how they executed. I thought the execution was clearly much better."

Was the intensity lacking in the first three weeks, specifically on the offensive line?

"I would definitely not say intensity. Again, more precision. You can go out there with the most unchained intensity that you can possibly muster and if it's not targeted in the right way, it's basically useless energy. It's all about doing things in a precise fashion, but very intense as well. So, you try to build habits throughout the year, develop those habits, and those habits are what you lean on come the season. Our guys always play hard, always play hard, and they always will, but it takes a level of precision in everything to be successful."

One player who doesn't like to talk much, G Mike Iupati, he's that pulling guard on that right side who's really popped a few runs for RB Frank Gore. What growth do you see from him just recently or just this season in that situation as the pulling guard?

"I thought Mike had a very good game the other night. I thought he played his best game. Mike's a really big, strong guy that can move extremely well. Anytime we get to pull him, I think he's done it enough now where he's got a good feel for how to insert. Is it a three-step pull? Do I have to change lanes? Is there a lane change required, or maybe even two lane change? And then once you get there, alright I got there, now what? Who's the hammer, who's the nail? Mike can accelerate through the hole as good as anybody."

What do you like about QB John Skelton as a quarterback?

"Well, we've got some exposure from competing against John. I think he's big, he's got good stature, good arm, and we got a chance to visit with him about three weeks ago. Liked the visit, liked his demeanor and had a really good workout with us. So, brings a veteran presence to the group and we'll see where it goes."

You mentioned stature, head coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned stature yesterday. The team brought in two quarterbacks over the offseason that you wouldn't consider having great stature, on the shorter side. Why has stature become an attribute that you prioritize now?

"I just think when you describe a player like John, that's one of the things that you can point to. His ability to see the defense and get the ball up and over the tall trees when necessary. That's certainly not being derogatory towards quarterbacks without great stature. But when describing John, I think that's one of the things that, a big guy who's able to stand in the pocket and deliver down the field."

What are the challenges of trying to fit RB LaMichael James into the offense and finding a role for him in an offense that seems so base, so geared around the power running game?

"Well, I think we can change gears pretty quickly. With a player like LaMichael, it's really not a challenge to find things for him to do. He's a very important part of our offense and from week-to-week he's going to have a different role. I think we've seen that in the past where LaMichael steps in and now all of a sudden you've got a different style coming at the defense and allows you to do different things that focus more on his skill set. And we've seen that."

I don't know if we've ever seen it while RB Kendall Hunter's been healthy. Is there a lot of overlap between what those two guys do?

"I think they're unique, but I think you can do very similar things with them. And the more we stay on the field, the more we can utilize those weapons. So, it's definitely a function of how many plays you're running, how many opportunities you have during a game and try to forecast that when you're putting a plan together."

Talking about Watt for various possible reasons, everyone talks about his motor and his effort and all those things. In that equation does his overall talent get shortchanged any?

"I think so. I think it gets overlooked. You're talking about a very strong, athletic person with great quickness, balance and length. He's got the ability to play a two-gap style and lock offensive linemen out. He's got the kind of length that you require to do that. And then he's got the quickness to beat you either way. And then you top it off with his frenetic motor, rolling ball of butcher knives type of motor, and you've got yourself one heck of a football player. So, I think our guys have a real good respect for him and I think they can't wait to get out there on Sunday."

When you look back at the first four games, would it have been clear that the defenses spent a lot of time on the read-option in the offseason? Are they better prepared for it, more ready for it than they were last year?

"Well, you'd probably have to ask them about how much time they spent on it. But I definitely think from time-to-time we're seeing people that are game planning in order to box you in. I think people have definitely tried to change what they've done and robbed Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. I definitely think there has been an effort to do that."

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