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49ers vs. Cardinals: Mike Johnson Discusses Brian Westbrook...Again

The 49ers coordinators spoke to the press today and I thought I'd highlight OC Mike Johnson's transcript on a couple of issues. Normally the coordinator's speak on Thursday, but because the 49ers play a Monday Night game this week and yesterday was Thanksgiving, the practice schedule is a day behind.

Coach Johnson was asked about any potential lineup changes this week and he said there would be no starting lineup changes, but there might be more guys "rolling in, in and out as the game goes." The followup question to that inquired about Kyle Williams getting more time in the slot and Johnson sort of brushed the question aside indicating Coach Singletary had to make the 45-man roster decisions and if he's on the 45-man for the game, maybe we'd see him out there.

What really interested me about this particular press session was his discussion of Brian Westbrook and Delanie Walker. He was asked why Westbrook hadn't seen the field nearly enough and he went into some detail that raised some questions:

"Because when you put Brian Westbrook in the game you have to take Delanie Walker out of the game, or you have to take [RB] Frank Gore out of the game. Now you're doing something on first and second down where you are taking two of our best players and sitting one of those guys down.

That's not the entire answer, but it's too long for me to post before the jump, so check it all out after the jump. What I found odd was that nobody followed up with a question about running plays that bring Westbrook on the field while leaving Walker and Gore in the game. If these guys are such great matchup problems, wouldn't mixing them all in create even more problems? I'm not saying run these guys out there every down, but it seems like a way to throw some wrinkles out there that force opposing defenses to adjust.

My knowledge of football is limited compared to any coach, but couldn't the 49ers roll out a play or two where you go with Westbrook and Gore, Vernon Davis lined up as a tight end on the line, Crabtree out wide one way and Delanie Walker in a wide receiver spot on the other side (or even bunch them on on side). Or split Westbrook out wide and use Davis in a running back position as they've done a few times in the past (past seasons - haven't seen it this season).

These are just some random suggestions, but it seems like when you've had a fairly dynamic, if aging weapon since mid-August you'd figure out a way to mix him into the lineup in some form or fashion. I'm not holding my breath to see changes, particularly consider the 49ers really don't make many in-game adjustments according to the article in this FanShot by manraj7. As the season circles the drain, you'd think the team would mix things up, but I suppose logic does not dictate very much these days.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Johnson
Post Walk-Thru - November 26, 2010
San Francisco 49ers 

Listen to Audio I Media Center

On whether there will be any lineup changes this week:

"I don't think there will be any lineup changes in the starting role. I think we're going to play more people. I think you may see some guys rolling in, in and out as the game goes. We'll see how certain things go at certain spots, but we're starting out the same way."

On whether there will be a role for WR Kyle Williams in the slot:

"We have to wait and see what [Head Coach] Coach Singletary does with the 45-0man roster to see how he fits, but if he's out there, there may be something we'll do within our offense. We have to see what Coach Singletary decides on that."

On how you split up the playing time between all the receivers:

"You have to know each guy, and then when you go 21-12 and then you go 21-2, you end up with a 21 Bulldog or a 21 Crab, so you have a multiple number of personnel groups so that you don't overload one guy. So, maybe you give a package to [WR] [Dominique] Zeigler, and then give another package to a [WR] Ted Ginn so that they don't get crossed in the personnel group and make a mistake."

On whether that is due to the fact that you don't want to overload guys and the amount of information that they have to know:

"Yes. Certain guys can handle more and you just try to make sure that you give them what they can handle and not overload them."

On what TE Delanie Walker has shown you as the #2 TE of this offense:

"Delanie Walker has played great. I mean he is one of the most consistent players on our offense right now. He's playing at a very high level. I'm very appreciative and very pleased at the way he has played this entire year when he's been healthy. He gives us another threat. He can also run block and he can also run. So when those two guys are in the game together, it gives us more options, and I'm excited about where he is right now as a player."

On whether you see defenses having to pay more attention to Walker and not just focus on TE Vernon Davis when both of them are on the field:

"Yeah, I don't know what their thought process is, but if I were a defensive coordinator, I'd probably say you have to do some game planning against those guys to make sure that one of those guys doesn't run by you."

On whether the emergence of Delanie Walker has an impact on Ted Ginn's role in the offense:

"I don't think Delanie Walker has any impact on Ted Ginn at all. I think it's just a matter of where we are right now. Like you said, we're still evolving, still trying to grow, still trying to do some things that make sure that we get to a package as an offense where we can go in and out on certain things and the quarterback can handle certain things, and get those things in a game."

On why RB Brian Westbrook hasn't seen much of the playing field this year:

"Because when you put Brian Westbrook in the game you have to take Delanie Walker out of the game, or you have to take [RB] Frank Gore out of the game. Now you're doing something on first and second down where you are taking two of our best players and sitting one of those guys down. We just talked about Delanie Walker being a matchup problem. Well when you put Brian Westbrook in the game, it's a different matchup problem. Now you have to add a whole new part of an offense that we haven't had a training camp to install. So you see him doing certain things in small pieces, but to utilize both Frank Gore and Brian Westbrook, those things have to be taught and they have to be detailed in a longer period of time. When you do that, it takes one of those guys off the field and I'm just trying not to take Frank Gore off the field unless he is tired. We need Frank Gore to be who he is. You look at him, he is a good running back, he is a good pass receiving back out of the backfield, probably one of the best. He is the one guy out of our entire offensive group that is probably the soundest on our protection schemes. So he is a very valuable part of our offense, and you are trying to put Brian Westbrook into the game in certain areas to utilize his skills and he played a little bit more last week. Had we done a better job on first down he would have played more, but then we had to get away from that part of it, so it's one of those deals where you are trying o utilize his talents and not take Frank Gore off the field for 15 plays a game and that is the process. It is something that can be done, but it is something that will have to be developed over time. It's something that you really need to do in training camp so you can get all the small details taught and have all the compliments so that you can't just say, ‘Brian Westbrook is going into the game and he's running a screen.' Or every time he comes into the game, ‘he is a wide receiver running a flat', so you try to do things to diversify his package and not be predictable with him, and it just takes time and it's something that needs to be taught through a longer period of time like training camp."

On how much Gore helps set pass protection:

"He does. He's the guy that's trying to do his job in the pass protection scheme, but he does a very good job at doing his job. And we need everybody on our offense to play better in certain areas, but he's a guy that understands the protection schemes, he understands defenses, he understands what they are trying to do on third down nickel packages, and he's valuable to us in that role. But he's not doing more than what he should do, he is just a guy that's back there doing his job and he does it well."

On why RB Brian Westbrook doesn't know every facet of the playbook:

"He does. He's at that point now. He's at that point where he is now understanding everything that he has to do. There was a plan last week to use him in the run game. The first time we gave him the ball on the run game we get a holding penalty. So now we're 2nd and 17, so therefore, that was a series that he was going to go in the game and he was going to run. But certain things happen in the game that you have to change and you do certain things and you get away from that. But he's at the point now where he's comfortable. So, he's understanding everything we're trying to do and he's ready."

On whether getting more guys playing time is in response to last week's performance:

"No. It's the same thing that I've said from the first time I stepped up here. We try to get the ball to certain people, starting with Frank Gore, [TE] Vernon Davis, [WR] Michael Crabtree, and then go from there. And then you add [TE] Delanie Walker, Brian Westbrook, and all those guys into the mix and each one of those guys, they require a different type of thought. So two weeks ago, we did that. We had five guys with 60 yards receiving or more. Last week we didn't do a very good job of that and I think what hurt was our ineffectiveness on first down. And I think if we do a better job on first down, then I think it opens up other opportunities to get those guys the ball in space and better down and distance situations."

On whether he can get a guy out on the edge as a quarterback regardless of the defense, as witnessed with Saints QB Drew Brees:

"I think when you look at the New Orleans Saints, I think they've been in that offense for three years now. So, I think they have every package to complement everything that they do. And I think the quarterback has been in that system for three or four years. So that also helps. So there are certain things that you can do to get a quarterback on the edge and complement certain things that you do, but all of that takes time. All of that takes time, and it takes the knowledge of everything you do to make sure you put it all together. And I think that's a big part of it."

On whether the Arizona defense reminds him of any other team:

"No. They're a good defensive football team. We know who they are up front. We know how good a player 24 [S Adrian Wilson] is, so we know 29 [CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] is on the corner, we know those guys well, and they know us well. So it's going to be a hard-fought battle and we're looking forward to the challenge."  

On what he tries to accomplish in the tight window of halftime:

"Well, you try to come up with some thoughts before you come down to the locker room, because you only have maybe five minutes to talk to an offensive or defensive football team and you don't have a lot of time to draw up a bunch of new plays. So you have to pull from things that you have, and make certain necessary adjustments to do that. You may change one or two things, but you don't have a lot of time to do that, no."

On whether he has more time to adjust during a road game versus a home game:

"Not necessarily. Not necessarily, because it depends on where you come from the booth. Certain places, you can get down quick, other places it takes a lot of time to come down. When we come down at home, it takes a long time to walk through the crowd to get to the locker room. Carolina was one of those games where you can get down right away. But it just depends on where you go."

On whether having more time means he can make more changes:

"I wouldn't say that it would change much because your coaches are doing certain things, and you're talking to different people and trying to see what you have to do, but I don't think it makes that much of a difference, no."