The San Francisco 49ers went through their second un-padded practice on Friday, and we got a chance to learn a little more about how they are preparing for the coming season. According to the practice reports (linked below), both sides of the ball were working on some read option. We know the offense will be doing plenty of that, but the defense's work is of some note.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio met with the media before practice, and he spoke about the team's limited work with the read option last season, as well as being able to face a solid read option attack in practice:
"Well, it does help that we're facing it in camp from our offense. Last year when our offense would work on that during training camp, we wouldn't work against them. We would split it up and we would take our first-team defense on another field and work on more conventional offenses because last year at this time, the only time that we thought we would see it would be from [Patriots QB Tim] Tebow in the game against the Jets and there was no other time we would see it. So, we didn't waste our time working on it against our own offense with our first-team defense. This year, we will obviously. So, it does help having an offense that can run it and they know how to run it not learning it off of the scout cart."
The 49ers obviously face a more extensive array of read option attacks this season with Russell Wilson in Week 2 and 14, Cam Newton in Week 10 and Robert Griffin III in Week 12. It is possible they will see a few such plays from other teams, but those four games are when they can see it most extensively.
Those three quarterbacks are notable as well because all three bring multi-faceted attacks to the table. While they bring serious athleticism to the table, they are able to find great success with the read option because they also can throw the ball extremely effectively. All three quarterbacks have their weaknesses, but if they show improvement in 2013, all three play for teams that conceivably could be playoff contenders.
I'd recommend giving the practice reports a read, but one player who seems to be standing out the first two days is cornerback Chris Culliver. It sounds like he is doing great work in coverage thus far. He did not participate in a lot of the OTA workout last month, but all seems well at this point.
Thus far in his two-year career, Culliver has come on in nickel situations, with Carlos Rogers moving into the slot. Culliver struggled in the Super Bowl, but he has also been a solid performer during his career. He has struggled at times with consistency, so we'll see if he can clean things up heading into his third season. He is one of several players the 49ers can start to work on a new deal with after this season. If he puts together a decent year, it will be interesting to see if the 49ers try and work out an extension before he hits free agency.