The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their first day of minicamp on Tuesday, and midway through the day, offensive coordinator Greg Roman chatted with the media. Although Roman does a good job avoiding giving away many details, he still can be an interesting listen.
Roman spent the early portion of the press conference talking about installation and execution. He focused in on the red zone after a question, and indicated the team has had some added emphasis. We all know about the 49ers struggles down near the goal line at the end of the Super Bowl, but the red zone, and goal to go were the biggest zone of struggle all season.
Football Outsiders puts together a ranking of teams by each zone of the field in their premium stats. They break it up into deep (own 1-19), back (own 20-39), mid (own 40-opp's 40), front (opp 39-21), red zone (opp 20-1) and goal to go (does not include plays on the 11 and beyond). In order, last season the 49ers ranked 9th, 4th, 2nd, 10th, 11th and and 23rd. In the red zone, the team was 14th in passing and 8th in rushing.
The addition of Vance McDonald has the potential to be a big help down inside the red zone. At 6'4, 267 pounds, McDonald is a big guy, and if he can show the necessary hands, he could be a guy the 49ers look to down close to the end zone. The key to taking the offense to another level is that final execution to punch the ball in. Adding Vance McDonald and having the deep running back rotation will hopefully be difference-makers in that area.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - June 11, 2013
San Francisco 49ers
How are you?
"Good, working hard. We've been through our instillation twice up to this point and we've got a big three day mini-camp. We have a lot of work to do and guys are dialed in, but we're definitely looking for a little bit more as far as execution goes. The first two times we put things in we're teaching, we're right along with the players. We're teaching, there's going to be mistakes, etc. Now we're looking for better execution. Any questions?"
Is there any special area of concentration this offseason, whether it be red zone or anything like that?
"Really, I think there's a lot of different areas we need to improve in and red zone being one of them. We're not just, at the exclusion of everything else, trying to get better at one thing, but there's definitely some extra emphasis. Coach has scripted that in the practices, for example maybe more in a certain area. It's a careful balance. You don't want to rob too much away from other areas. There's a foundation we want to lay and we'll just devote a little bit more time to certain specific areas."
How much has the offense changed this year as opposed to last season at this time, with a new quarterback starting the season?
"It's going to change every year, no matter who the quarterback is, but I think it will evolve as we go. We've got some new faces, [WR] Anquan [Boldin] for example, some of the young guys that we'll incorporate into what we do. There'll be subtle changes and we'll evolve as we go."
With WR Michael Crabtree out, have any of the young guys stepped up in your eyes?
"Yeah, I think they're stepping up and it's a process. I think they're working extremely hard. [WR] A.J. [Jenkins], I thought the last two days of last week, had the two best days he's had since I've been here. [WR] Quinton Patton and [WR] Ricardo Lockette, they're all stepping up and it's just going to be a continuing process. We're trying to get these guys ready for training camp, to come in and compete, and win a job and it's happening."
When you say he had his best two days, WR A.J. Jenkins, what did he do?
"Wednesday and Thursday, just made some clutch catches for us when we were moving the ball. Just made plays, did all the right things, made plays when he had the opportunity and he just needs to continue doing that."
Have you seen a change in his demeanor, from a year agoave you seen a change in his demeanor from a year ago?
"I think there's a natural process that goes on, a comfort level and that's something that's growing all the time and needs to continue to grow."
Is there a leading candidate for the number two receiver right now?
"We don't really get into one and twos and what not, but I think anybody that's active on game day is going to have a role. I think all those guys will have a role on game day if they keep going the way they've been going."
What are the timelines of two of your injured receivers, WR Kyle Williams and WR Mario Manningham?
"That's still up in the air. They're progressing nicely, but that would probably be a question for [head coach] Jim [Harbaugh]."
What's the biggest growth or difference you've seen in QB Colin Kaepernick coming into this season, knowing that this is his first full year as a starter?
"I'd just say everything. His approach, his expectations, his understanding of everything. Certainly everybody's got something to work on, if not multiple things, but he's light years ahead of where he was last year."
Did WR A.J. Jenkins make significant progress working with QB Colin Kaepernick during the offseason, along with WR Ricardo Lockette? Are you seeing some signs of what they can do?
"There's no question. Any work is good, we believe more is more and they did more work. Therefore they're further along than they would be had they not done that. So, that was really good for everybody including Kap [QB Colin Kaepernick]."
What have been your impressions of TE Vance McDonald throughout the spring?
"[TE] Vance [McDonald] is doing a nice job. He's progressing nicely. We threw everything at him at two different positions in the offense and he's progressing really well. I like his demeanor and I like the progression he's on."
What about QB B.J. Daniels? What are you seeing in his game?
"B.J.'s doing a good job. I think he's got a full plate too. He's got great arm talent, he's very athletic and coming into work every day with the right attitude. That's been great, but he has a lot to learn. Playing quarterback in this league is not something you roll out of bed and do and it's a process. When Kap first got here it was a process for him and B.J. just needs to continue to get better every day."
What are the two positions that Vance is in?
"What we call the Y and the F. But, two tight end positions, or really anybody can play those positions. But, those are the ones that he's focusing on."
Are those a little more out of the backfield with the F?
"The F can be anywhere. And the Y can, too. I don't want to give anything away."
He's a little bit bigger than the guy you had in those spots last year. Does that help in the red zone? Just having a longer target? A bigger wingspan?
"Potentially can, potentially can. The player's got to make the play. But, that's something, a catch radius as we call it, is a good thing. And we'll see how that plays out."
Have you been able to see with the non-contact practices what his blocking is like at this point?
"You can't tell. Without pads you don't know anything in that regard, other than how does he process technical information, in other words, the technique of things. Which he's doing a very nice job of. But, until you get pads on, we're all just running around in our shorts. Football is played in pads, and we're trying to get them ready for that time. But, he's doing nice."
How have you enjoyed working with senior offensive consultant Eric Mangini so far?
"Great. Eric's a wealth of knowledge. He's a guy that's got a great pedigree. And he's a very hardworking, intelligent, he can come at things with a different angle than we might do. So, it's been great. And he's getting caught up with what we're doing. And then in the next week probably we're going to sit down just lock ourselves in the room and really look to the future a bit. But, it's been great. It's a great addition to our staff. And I'm sure he'll boost us and help us in certain areas."
What have you seen out of the running back corps through the offseason program?
"Done a very good job. And [running backs] coach [Tom] Rathman does a great job getting those guys prepared. We put a lot on their plate. I think everybody at that position is doing a good job. And if they don't, Tom will let them know about it."
If you lock yourself in a room with Eric Mangini, what are you guys going to do? Are you going to look back at all of last year's game film?
"I think that probably would be on the docket. That's a good question. Really, it's a good question. But, also when you get into those football discussions, you could take one play and you could end up talking about it for 30 minutes because of all the different things you could branch off and talk about. So, just excited to have Eric's expertise on our side and looking forward to working with him."
How much time did you spend thinking about the Super Bowl in the offseason? Do you still think about it? Do you still think about the play calling?
"I think about every game. I'm thinking about 2013, and the challenges we have ahead. But, whatever's historical is historical. I think about plays from games 15, 20 years ago."
Did you ever assess the game with WR Anquan Boldin?
"Not specifically. But, you've got to give Anquan credit. As he always has in his career, the guy has stepped up and made plays."
You just mentioned that you think back about plays from a decade ago or more. Do you reflect on those when you're making a decision in a game?
"All that stuff happens in split seconds. So, you like to think about that ahead of time. But, it's more about when you're planning."
Is there a need that Eric Mangini is filling? In other words, was there something missing last year from the offensive coaching staff that you believe that he can add?
"I don't think there was anything missing. But, again with [head coach] Jim [Harbaugh], we're going to try and get better. And the challenge is as Eric and I talked, is how to take his expertise and add it to a very, very strong staff and make that work in a positive way. And I think we have the means and ways to do that."
Does it just help to lighten your load then?
"I don't want a lighter load. But, what it does I think it'll add to-he brings a lot of value, and it's our job to fit that in and make our staff that much stronger. We have a great staff, a great staff."
Can you talk just about what it was like with the tree incident at the park the other day, what you had to go through?
"Well, I was standing this way looking this way and my wife was bowling. And then the tree started to fall. And I heard [makes branch-breaking noise], and I turned and I saw somebody and I went to take a step to grab them, and then the tree was halfway down. So, I just full sprinted it. I got crushed by it. But, thankfully from my perspective at least, I didn't take the brunt of the trunk. So, very lucky. Very fortunate."
Did you get scratched?
"I got scratched all over, yeah. I got beat up pretty good. But, can't keep me down by a tree. Natural disasters? No."
Was the person behind you the woman that ended up getting hurt pretty badly?
With the red zone work that you were talking about, how much would you say that you've added? An extra 15 minutes? An extra certain number of plays? And will you carry that into training camp as well do you think?
"I think we added a certain percentage. Not too great of a percentage. But, hopefully it's just right like the third bowl of porridge. And we don't want to take away from everything else we need to build. But, it's definitely an emphasis."