We're four weeks into the 2008 NFL Season and 49ers QB J.T. O'Sullivan has been sacked 19 times. That puts him on pace for 76 sacks, which would tie David Carr's single season record. That also happened in Carr's rookie season and while he had a couple decent seasons, he never really recovered from the beating he took.
The Patriots have struggled a bit, but even I was surprised by how poorly their defense performed against the Dolphins. Even with the offense losing Tom Brady, that defense has a whole host of playmakers. Coming off such a poor performance, I think it's safe to say the hooded one will have his defense chomping at the bit and looking for blood.
Accordingly, the 49ers offense is going to have figure out a way to protect J.T. O'Sullivan and keep him on his feet more often. I realize the Martz offense is high risk high reward and the QB is going to be sacked fairly often, but the rate so far has been ridiculous. Jon Kitna was sacked 63 and 51 times in the two season of Martz but that was the Lions who struggled to develop a running game and didn't exactly have thre greatest offensive line in the world.
The problems so far seem to be threefold: 1) The offensive line struggles to provide JTO with time to pass, 2) When the line gives him time, JTO will hold onto the ball too long, and 3) Some of the play-calling leaves a little something to be desired.
I think the first two are areas that are both self-explanatory and I don't think much can be added to the conversation. As far as the line is concerned there are certainly some replacement options available. We've got some potential fill-ins and could shake things up but I'm not sure how much of a difference it would make. As for JTO, well clearly he needs to learn to either throw away the ball or gallop along for a few free yards. Pretty straightforward.
The play-calling is what I want to address. We've been over and over and over the Vernon Davis problems. What I don't understand is why Martz doesn't run more screen passes and short, quick passes to him? Those passes drastically increase the chances that he won't drop the ball and he has proven time and again that if he gets the ball in his hands he will more often than not make some thing out of it. If I had every game on tape I could probably point to numerous times when he gets the quick screen or quick hitches and turns up field for a first down or more. I realize many would prefer Vernon Davis be running deep and making plays that way, but I really don't understand why they don't run specific plays just to get the ball in his hands. Am I the only one? Is there a reasonable explanation?
The second issue in play-calling is Frank Gore. This past Sunday, Frank Gore ran the ball or had a pass thrown in his direction (both complete and incomplete) a total of 10 times in the first half. In one situation, Gore ran on first and second down for 9 yards setting up a 3rd and 1. The next play was an incomplete pass to Isaac Bruce. I realize you don't want to force the running game if it isn't there, but if you don't think Gore can get you 1 yard from Frank Gore, there is clearly a problem.
I was never a fan of Mike Tice's "Randy Ratio" up in Minnesota. However, in the case of Frank Gore, I think you have to come up with a minimum number of times you want him to touch the ball and then do whatever it takes to reach and exceed that number. He's a bull of a running back who can shimmy through the smallest of holes. A struggling offensive line will not completely hold him back.
I realize much of what I'm stating would qualify as "the obvious." But if it's so obvious, wouldn't the coaches realize this too? The Patriots defense presents numerous dangers, particularly coming off an embarrassing performance. The 49ers will have to adjust to keep JTO on his feet and making plays. All I ask is for more quick stuff to Davis and some kind of Gore ration (we can call it the "Frank Factor").