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Weekend Whirlwind Part 1: 49ers offense heading into 2009

First off, HUGE thanks to Ninjames for kicking butt in keeping things going all weekend long.  I was out of town for Labor Day weekend with limited Internet access that basically entailed a little email access.  I knew this was going to be a rather news-worthy weekend, given the final preseason game and roster cuts and all.  However, things seemed to be especially hopping for the 49ers all weekend long and into yesterday.  Thanks to Andrew Davidson for his Pashos post of course.  However, this weekend would have been pretty bad without Ninjames stepping up.

I'll actually be mid-flight from Atlanta when this post goes up (rock on scheduled posting!).  However, I wanted to use today to sort of catch-up with all the happenings from the weekend.  We've got a whole bunch of posts and FanPosts and I thought we would bring the discussion together in more compact posts.  This post will be about how the holiday weekend has left the offense.  Later this afternoon (around 2pm or so pacific time) I'll have a post related to the defensive side of the ball and this weekend.  This will be a bit more interesting for me because I still have no seen the final preseason game.  I recorded the game and will watch it at some point tomorrow.  One plus is that, as to be discussed in the defense post, I can focus in on Shawntae Spencer a bit more.  Craziness I tell you (we'll see if it's good or bad).

Also, as you can see, I've posted a new Official Crabtree post.  People have had a whole lot of thoughts on it, and things are only going to pick up this week before the Cardinals game.  Feel free to respond in the various existing Crabtree threads, but for now let's avoid creating new Crabtree threads.

I have to admit, initially I was a bit surprised by some of the decisions regarding the 53-man roster and the final roster cuts.  Initially I was surprised to see Micheal Spurlock and not Dominique Zeigler.  Initially I was surprised to see Bear Pascoe AND J.J. Finley get the axe, and then even a little more surprised when Finley was placed on the practice squad over everyone's favorite, BEAR (ProfessorBigelow must be absolutely crushed).  And, of course, I was surprised Kory Sheets was cut.

And yet, in the end, maybe none of these should surprise me, or us.  After a moment or two of reflection, Spurlock over Zeigler is actually perfectly sensible at this point for me.  Zeigler has great hands, but he never showed himself as much of a special teams force.  Whomever was potentially going to be the 6th wide receiver on the 49ers would need to show a lot more than pass-catching ability.  Let's be honest: how often will that 6th receiver sniff the field?  Obviously they'll get playing time, but it will NOT be remotely significant.  So, that means you need a guy who can step up in other facets of the game.

That makes Micheal Spurlock your man.  He's seen time returning kicks and punts, he's seen time as a receiver, and of course, we've seen him in the Taser formation.  Maybe he does none of those things.  Maybe he's cut in three days when Michael Crabtree signs and never dons the sweet new unis.  However, he brings a lot more of a well-rounded game than Dominique Zeigler does at this point in his career.  Oh, and Zeigler has practice squad eligibility.  Oh, and nobody claimed Zeigler.  So, in hindsight, everything is hunk-dory.  Of course, given how fantastic this community has become, this is the kind of move that generates discussion, when most fans are likely to ignore it.

After the jump, we take a look at some of the other cuts, and of course the Tony Pashos signing.

Tony Pashos
We might as well talk about Tony Pashos, right off the bat.  The whole thing is a little bizarre.  Pashos was complaining about his salary in Jacksonville and after being cut, signed a 1-year deal for less than what he was making in Jacksonville, with a team where he's not guaranteed starting time.  Of course, given his talent, it's entirely possible he surpasses Adam Snyder on the depth chart, shows his stuff and signs a big fat contract in the offseason.  A lot of things could happen.  Here's what the fine folks at Scout's Inc have to say about Pashos (Insider protected):

He started all 16 games at right tackle for the Jaguars in 2008 and does a good job of anchoring that side of the offensive line. He is a massive tackle with long arms, excellent strength and adequate athleticism. He is a powerful drive blocker that often simply engulfs opponents and uses his long arms to lock up opponents and drive them off the line. He is not a natural knee bender and has to work to keep his pad level down to leverage his blocks. He tends to grab wide to engulf opponents and has just enough foot agility to work his way around and seal opponents off. He has limited lateral range in pas protection and often has to turn his hips to run rushers on by the pocket. He is susceptible to counter moves but can sink his hips to hunker down versus the bull rush.

I realize based on comments made in the Pashos thread and every other thread about offensive tackles, that people will complain about not drafting a tackle in the draft.  Feel free to continue complaining as it is certainly a gripe to be considered.  At the same time, for a short term move, I think the 49ers have done a good job.  No matter what anybody says, offensive tackle was a definite area of concern.  Barry Sims causes most people to shudder.

It's going to be very interesting to see how these first few weeks go with the offensive line.  The offensive line will be completely together and we can truly start to judge them.  At times this preseason the offensive line has looked solid and at times the line has struggled.  Now that we've got Staley, Baas, Heitmann, Rachal and Snyder all together for week 1, I'm actually rather excited.  My season preview (coming Friday or Saturday as part of the final divisional roundtable) will reflect this, but I think this could be a pretty decent line in 2009. 

As you can tell, I've officially entered the kool-aid chugging phase of the offseason.

Tight End
In looking over the 53-man roster, the decision to cut Kory Sheets caught me a bit off-guard, as well as the decision to only go with two tight ends (and that has nothing to do with the cutting of Bear Pascoe).  The team did not seem to like Finley enough to keep him around, so the question becomes, who do they bring in as the #3 tight end?  Or do they bother with one?  Normally that third tight end is strictly a blocking tight end, along the lines of a Billy Bajema

Bear Pascoe was not going to be that guy at this point, so either the team is happy with Davis being the blocking tight end, or the free agent market is not dried up yet.  Any thoughts on where the team goes with this one?  The tight end position raises a lot of questions, particularly given Jimmy Raye's comments about using Vernon Davis like Tony Gonzalez back in Kansas City.  Mike Martz said something along the same lines last season, but we all know how that turned out.  This is a completely different offense so I'll remain open-minded, but as always with the 49ers tight ends, I'm not holding my breath for monster numbers....wait...I need a quick drink.  And we're back.  Vernon Davis named to the Pro Bowl as more than just an alternate!

Running Back
The running back situation is intriguing because of the potential implications.  At this point there are numerous possibilities, not including signing another running back: 1) Frank Gore is getting a heavy load of carries (least likely); 2) Glen Coffee is going to see the field a whole lot his rookie year (most likely); 3) Michael Robinson is going to get a decent number of carries.  As to this last option, Robinson will clearly be involved in the offense.  We know he's a key aspect of the Taser formation.  But beyond that, will we see much more out of him?  I know most folks are praying for fewer goal line carries.  Do the 49ers have that kind of goal line back at this point? 

I say no, that it's more just a mix of quality running backs in Frank Gore and Glen Coffee; neither of whom is the traditional big hulking goal line back in the Brandon Jacobs mold.  Now that's not necessarily a bad thing, or even a good thing.  It simply is what it is.  I'd imagine the 49ers are in a position where they can use either Gore or Coffee in short yardage situations. 

The plus to the 49ers running back situation (not factoring in potential additions), is that the 49ers have some flexibility in who will be in the game in what situation.  When Coffee was drafted, a lot of folks were disappointed because he appeared to be a similar type of runner to Frank Gore.  Why add another Gore-type instead of some kind of offsetting back?  Well, in this league, I think you're just looking for talented players, even if they play in a similar fashion to your current players.

As with everything else in this and all analysis leading up to this Sunday, the cards (no pun intended) will finally be on the table Sunday afternoon.  On the offensive side of the ball I'd imagine the news is not finished yet.  Aside from Crabtree (as always), I would be shocked if the team stood pat as is.  There are a couple of spots that might still be filled and we'll certainly have all the info when it comes down.

We'll be back later this afternoon (around 2pm pacific time) with a look at what's gone down with the defense and how things are shaking out for it heading into this weekend's game at Arizona.