The offseason has provided us with plenty of comments from the Green Bay Packers about how they are studying the read option in order to avoid another embarrassment like their playoff loss to the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick had his way with the Packers in January, throwing for 263 yards and rushing for 181 yards. The 49ers put up 579 total yards of offense, and that number became a sort of mantra for the Packers.
The Packers used their first-round pick this year on defensive end Datone Jones. The UCLA product was high on the wish list of many 49ers fans, in part because he brings serious athleticism to the field. A big plus in his favor is his college experience in the 3-4.
The Green Bay Press Gazette had an interesting article on Friday about Jones, his experience and his thoughts on the read option (h/t Pro Football Talk). In the article, he had one quotation that will probably make the rounds this offseason:
Jones also watched the game and noted Kaepernick's success in the read option.
"I thought he was pretty good," Jones said, "but I don't think they're going to be able to run him like that. He takes one good hit, there goes their season."
That's the money quotation, but the Press Gazette did make a good point immediately after that:
But even if defenses catch up with the read option this year, or offenses pull back because of the injury risk to their most important player, quarterbacks such as Kaepernick, RGIII and Cam Newton still are dangerous dual threats because of their scrambling. Against the Packers, Kaepernick did most of his running damage in the first half not in the read option but on aborted pass plays (five scrambles for 75 yards, including one touchdown).
Jones' comment includes a bit of Captain Obvious as far as taking one good hit. Obviously a big hit would not be a good thing. But as we've discussed ad nauseam, the 49ers offense is not just the read option, and it's not just Colin Kaepernick running around. That is a part of it, and his ability to run has a significant impact on the offense. That being said, Kap can throw the ball with power and accuracy.
The 49ers have shown plenty of willingness to focus on the passing attack, and leave the rushing game more to improvisation, as opposed to designed runs. The Packers get a chance to figure out where they're at right off the bat when they face the 49ers in Week One. And we'll find out just how much Jones' athleticism helps the Packers. His defensive coordinator at UCLA, Lou Spanos, thinks he has the experience against the read option to be effective, but we'll see how things change from the college level to the NFL level for young Mr. Jones.