clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

49ers RB Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon: How we gonna play 'em?

Yesterday was certainly a cray day for the 49ers, as they surprised some folks by landing former Eagles RB Brian Westbrook. Westbrook had been rumored to be considering the St. Louis Rams, but when Glen Coffee retired, the full court press was on and next thing we knew, Brian Westbrook was a member of the San Francisco 49ers. We had a lot of discussion yesterday, but I wanted to focus in a couple different items this morning. We'll move away from Westbrook/Dixon discussion later this morning, but I wanted to get this going while had the signing momentum. Also, unless you're going to put together some fairly in depth analysis or are discussing an incredibly unique talking point about Westbrook, please hold off creating FanPosts about the signing so we can keep the discussion focused in one area.

When the 49ers were considering their options in light of the Glen Coffee retirement, there were two options: 1) Sign a guy who would be a contributor over the course of the season and would battle Anthony Dixon and Michael Robinson for the backup role; and 2) Sign a camp body who very likely wouldn't make it on to the 53-man roster, but would rather fill a Shane Andrus role of keeping the other guys fresh.

The 49ers opted for the former in making a splash with Brian Westbrook. This is particularly interesting in light of Anthony Dixon's monster effort in Sunday's preseason game against the Colts. Dixon still has plenty to work on and prove, but this signing shows in part that the team is not ready to hand the backup reins over to a rookie running back.

Join us for more, as well as Westbrook's transcript after the jump...

And it's probably the best option at this point. Yes you'd love to have a youngster step up, but when you can get an all-around backup threat like Brian Westbrook it makes sense. I've posted the transcript from his press conference after the jump, and make no mistake about it, he's here to be the #1 backup to Frank Gore:

Of course, [Frank will] be the starter, but I'll be the guy right behind him pushing him and I'll be ready for any chance I get go out on the field and make plays."

My questions at this point are how the offense will work with Westbrook and Dixon in the next three preseason games, and also how the team will want to utilize Westbrook and Dixon during the regular season. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc had some interesting comments about the offense with Westbrook added in:

Westbrook clearly is a big upgrade as a pass catcher, and you cannot overlook that in any way . . . Gore is a workhorse, but he is also injured a lot. You need someone like Westbrook to give you two games at a time, and I think he can probably still do that.

Westbrook will help in the passing game and I could see him being an excellent option when the team is in 3rd and long situations. He can still run the ball so it does not come across as an abandonment of the running game, and yet he is an excellent receiving option out of the backfield.

Given that we know what Westbrook can do when healthy, the question then is what to do with Anthony Dixon? Will this become a quasi 3-headed monster? Or maybe Frank Gore and then a 2-headed backup monster? At the very least, I can't imagine we'll see a whole lot of Michael Robinson in the running game at this point. He'll get on the field for some offensive snaps, but how much need is there for him on the offensive side of the ball? He's got limited upside as a running back and he was potentially already facing a bump down the depth chart after Sunday's performance by Anthony Dixon.

Whatever the case may be, the team's rushing attack has certainly gained a level of potency. In the past, if Frank Gore went down there was great concern. This year, there would still be concern, but Westbrook is an excellent substitution option. It remains to be seen how healthy he'll be over the course of the season, but it's a risk well worth taking.


RB Brian Westbrook
Press Conference - August 16, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

On why he chose the 49ers:

"First, I would like to thank coach for the opportunity of being here. My number one concern throughout the process was going to a winning team, a football team that was coached by a man that I respect. A team that had a winning tradition and players that would be able to achieve that and I think I found all of those things here in San Francisco. It was a long process, but in the end, I think it turned out well for me."

On how close he was to signing with the Rams:

"Well, I had talked to their coaches several times. I had talked to several teams' coaches. I guess we were just as close as any team. It never happened and it never materialized. For me, it's not about what happened in the past. For me, it's what I can help this team do in the future and helping this team win football games is the reason I'm here."

On how he can help the team:

"I think I add a lot of value to this team, a football team that has a lot of very good players already on the offensive side of the ball, a lot of very good players on defense. Obviously, offensively you have [TE] Vernon [Davis], the guys outside, [WR Michael] Crabtree, [WR] Ted Ginn. [QB] Alex Smith is a young quarterback that has a lot of weapons around him and also a young offensive line. You add into that myself as well as [RB] Frank Gore, a very talented running back, I think we'll be a hard offense for teams to stop. I just want to bring in my leadership ability, my talents, as far as catching the ball out of the backfield as well as running the ball. I just want to continue to improve as a player myself, but continue to help this team mature and continue in their winning ways."

On pairing with RB Frank Gore:

"Frank's the man. Frank's the man. He's done tremendous things in the past, Pro Bowls, a talented guy. I've respected his game from afar. In Philly, I watched and studied him an awful lot. I respect him a whole lot. I'm going to go out there and push him as much as I can, help him as much as I can and I'm sure he'll do the same thing for me, continue to make me better. Of course, he'll be the starter, but I'll be the guy right behind him pushing him and I'll be ready for any chance I get go out on the field and make plays."

On whether he talked with former teammate S Michael Lewis and if he did any selling:

"I know a couple guys on the team. I did talk to coach several times. I talked to Vernon Davis a few times. I talked to [LB] Takeo Spikes as well. I actually didn't get a chance to talk to Mike, but I'll probably talk to him here in the near future. I have a lot of friends on this team, a few friends on this team. I'm just excited to be here."

On whether he is fully healthy:

"I am fully healthy. In my mind, last year was a tough year for me. I spent the whole offseason rehabbing. I didn't have an opportunity to prepare myself for the season so I kind of went into the season blind without any preparation at all. For me, it was just a tough year. I was playing catch-up the entire season and obviously I wasn't able to do that. This year, I was able to rehab and able to really spend my whole offseason preparing for a football season. Now that my body is completely healthy, I'm ready to go out there and perform."

On whether he considered retirement after suffering concussions last year:

"I never said that. That was someone that made those reports up. I know I did not say that."

On whether he has any trepidation sustaining another concussion:

"No, I don't. I did a lot of studying, a lot of homework on the cause of concussions as well as the symptoms that go along with them. Every doctor that I talked to, all of the specialists that I talked to have basically said that you're just at a risk just like anybody else that plays the game of football. For me to go out there and play, you're at a risk just like anybody else that has never sustained a concussion. For me, I could go out there worry free with my mind at ease that the concussion issue is in the past."

On when the courtship began with the 49ers and the message coach Singletary gave him:

"Well, when the young man [RB] Glen Coffee retired, that was probably the turning point for me. When I talked to coach, I could tell that he was a straight shooter. He's a guy that's going to give it to you straight. He's a guy that's going to be honest with you. He's a Christian man, more importantly he's a Christian man and those are some of the things I respect in general and respect about coach. The team speaks for itself. The team can win football games, has the opportunity to continue the playoff tradition and for me, I have to come in and help this team continue to do that."

On whether he talked about how many carries he will be getting:

"We really didn't discuss how many touches I'll get. I know Frank will need to come out of the game every now and then, and so any chance I get, I want to be able to go out there and perform. For me, I want to push him in practice, continue to push him in the game. I'm hungry. I want to play just as much as the next man. Every opportunity I get, I'm going to make a play, I'm going to make something happen."

On whether he considers himself an every-down back and why not go to a place where he can be that:

"I do consider myself and every-down back, a guy that can carry the load. I truly do. I think at this point in my career, I think the wise thing for me to do is go to a place that has a guy that can share the load. I've completely carried the load for a long time in Philly and I was complimented by a couple of guys, especially [Philadelphia RB] Correll Buckhalter. I think at this point in my career, it's the best thing for me to go to a place that definitely has a winning tradition, but also has a guy that can share the load as well."

On whether he came to the conclusion this offseason that he needs to share the carries:

"I think it was a process, because as a player, you always want the ball in your hands no matter what situation you're in. You want the ball in your hands. You want to be out there on the field. For me, I think the smart move for my body, for my game, for this team is to share the load."

On how long it will take him to pick up the new offense:

"I'm not sure. I haven't had to learn a new offense for eight years. I think my work ethic has spoken for itself in the past and so I'm going to really spend the rest of my night tonight in the playbook, spend my days trying to get with our offensive coaches trying to figure out exactly what they need me to do, what they want me to do. And spend every waking moment in that playbook trying to get things done and this playbook down pat as quickly as I can."

On how familiar he is with what offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye does here:

"To be honest with you, I'm not very familiar at all. I have seen some of the games. Like I said, I've studied Frank's game a lot. For me, it's a total new thing, but I'm willing and up to the challenge. I'm a student of the game. I'm a guy that can sit there and understand. I can look in a book and understand it. I can watch another man practice and understand it. So, I'm a total student of the game and I can make it happen."

On what he learned from watching Gore:

"I think he's a heck of a player. I think from his standpoint, I think his ability to run. I've seen his ability to break tackles. I've seen their trap schemes, I've seen their power schemes and those are some of the things I did in college. We didn't do as much in Philly, but those are the thing that I'm looking forward to being a part of."

On whether he expects to be in on third down situation and pick up blitzes:

"I think so. When I talked to coach, he didn't say you won't be involved in this, you won't be involved in that. He said look, if something happens to Frank, we want you to be able to step right in there and play. Hopefully nothing happens to Frank, but if something does, I'll be willing to step in there and play and be willing to play."

On what he remembers about playing the 49ers over the years:

"Well, a hardnosed team. A tough, physical, hardnosed team. I think the biggest thing in the NFL you have to have is discipline. You could be as tough and as physical as you want to, but if you don't have any discipline and you don't have any leadership and accountability for the other guys on the team, then you won't win any football games. I think those are some of the things that coach is trying to bring to the football team. You can tell the difference between the year before last and this past year. This team has definitely improved and they're going in the right direction."

On whether he watched yesterday's game and his thoughts on RB Anthony Dixon:

"I did watch yesterday's game. He looked good, a big, powerful running back. I think he impressed me a lot. I think he probably surprised some of the coaches, but he definitely surprised me. I'm happy and ready to work with him as well. He'll push me and I'll push him as well, and try to make each other better."

On when he arrived in town:

"I got here late last night."

On whether he senses urgency on this team:

"Everybody I talked to here and my first conversation with coach was about purely winning. We want to win football games, of course not at all cost, but we want to do everything we can to win. I think coach's philosophy is to bring in quality guys that can help this football team win. I feel as though I'm a quality guy and I feel like I can help this football team win, and that's one of the biggest reasons I'm here. My urgency level is I want to win right now. I've always been like that. I've been like that in Philly. I was like that at Villanova in my college years and my younger years as well. Anything that I can do to help this team win, that's what I'm going to do.

On whether he has settled on a jersey number:

"Yeah, actually I'm going to wear number 20, which was my college number."

On whether he feels like he is fading:

"My last year in Philadelphia, 2009, was not a very good year for me and I explained the reasons why I felt as though that was. But from my workouts that I've had this offseason, my conditioning that I've had this offseason, I don't see any reason why I couldn't be a back that can help carry the load and help this team win football games."

On whether a fresh start can be a good thing sometimes:

"Yeah, it's a different venue. Like coach, I'm a big Christian and I believe sometimes God puts you in unfamiliar places that can show you how much in control of your life he is. On the way here, I was praying, just praying and wondering why. God isn't always going to put you in the most comfortable position, but he's always going to be there with you. I appreciate that. I appreciate the opportunity. I'm willing and ready, I just need to go out there and do it."

On whether he left any money on the table to come to the 49ers:

"I think the contract stuff is really irrelevant at this point. For me, I just want to go out there and play football. That's for my agents to handle and all of that other stuff. I told him from the beginning that I want to go to a good, quality football team, a well coached team, a team that can win. He found one."

On whether he and Gore have worked out together before:

"No, we've never worked out together. I've known him. I think we were maybe at the Pro Bowl together a couple of times. We've met a few times, but we don't know each other that well. We will have the opportunity to get to know each other well over the season. I'm sure that he'll critique my game, I'll critique his and we'll both push ourselves to get better. That's what it's all about."

On whether it was hard to be patient and wait for a team:

"I think as you go, you don't miss training camp that much. You have to be patient. It's not that hard to be patient when everybody out there is doing two-a-days and things like that."