49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman spoke with the media before practice today and had plenty to discuss as the offense prepares for a sort of dress rehearsal on Saturday against the Houston Texans. My favorite question was, "What's more likely, four running backs or two tight ends?"
Xavier Omon has had a solid camp and put up a solid performance against the Raiders this past Saturday. While I've pondered the idea of four running backs, I also remind myself about Thomas Clayton, Kory Sheets or any other player deep down the depth chart putting up strong numbers late in preseason games. It'd be an interesting decision to keep Omon, but I just don't see it happening at this point. Given the intricacies of the practice squad I'm not quite sure if he qualifies. After being drafted by the Bills and sticking on their roster for parts of one and a half seasons, he spent parts of one and a half seasons on the Seahawks and Jets practice squads. I think he might have eligibility left, but I'm not really sure.
Any thoughts on Xavier Omon, other than "He's our Future!!!!" ?
The press conference transcript is after the jump and you can view Roman's press conference at 49ers.com.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - August 24, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
"Finishing up a really great week of work, I guess I shouldn't say finishing, we're just looking to have a great practice today. We had, I thought, one of our best practices yesterday and I'll throw it out there to you guys."
You guys didn't do so well in the red-zones in the past game, is that a factor of just not having done a lot of the red-zone install, or are you just trying to keep it vanilla for the preseason?
"Probably a combination of both of them. We've gotten a lot of red zone work. With the offseason being what it is, I don't think anybody is where they normally are at this time situationally. We spent a lot of time on our situations, our specific situations within the practice; red-zone is certainly one we've spent as much time as we possibly can in. I think all football plays come down to execution. Unfortunately, we didn't execute with some of those plays as well as we could have and whether or not we call those plays in the regular season is anybody's guess. We'll wait and see on that."
At the other end of the field, it seems that the new kickoff rule is going to back a lot of offenses up at your own goal line. Is there more of an emphasis on those plays coming off when you're tighter on your end zone?
"The only thing I can say is a lot of times you used to ask, is this a right return or a left return? Now it's, well the ball is going to be in the middle. It's a little bit more predictable from that standpoint. I think if the other team has a kicker that can pin you back in the end zone, then you're going to be at the 20. It definitely takes a lot of the guesswork out of it."
Why not start WR Braylon Edwards in some of these games? He seems to be a starting caliber wide receiver.
"Braylon has been great. I think Braylon brings a lot to the team, brings a lot to the group. I think I've mentioned before, I really enjoy his presence. He's a competitive guy that just wants to win. The more of those guys we can have, the better. Braylon, I would define as, he could be a difference maker. As he keeps improving and working into the offense, it's just like anybody else, his role will expand."
Do you expect that he might not be around, be available in Week One. Does that come into play where, if WR Ted Ginn is going to be starting in Week One, then it makes sense to have him starting in these games as well. Does that part of it play into the starting units?
"Well I think Ted has had an incredibly good camp, too. Whatever reps Ted gets, or whatever status Ted gets, Ted has earned it. It's day to day, really with all of our players. We try to make each position as strong as possible. One of the affects of that is great competition. Guys that are competing and getting the job done are going to play. Luckily for us, we've got a really good group of core wide receivers that continue to improve, so it's very exciting."
I haven't seen WR Ronald Johnson play very much in the games or get very many reps. Is he struggling through any kind of injury or is he just behind in the offense?
"Well, I think Ronald is having a good camp. Hopefully, we'll see some more of him against the Texans. I got nothing but really good things to say about Ronald Johnson. He's a guy that loves football and he's pretty darn skilled. So I think you'll see more out of Ronald this week."
Where is C Jonathan Goodwin at, in terms of picking of the offense and getting more integrated with the first unit? Might he start?
"Jonathan is really making some good strides. He is a steady ‘Rock of Gibraltar' type guy. He doesn't say a whole lot, in terms of being vocal all the time, but you want to talk about a smart guy; he's kind of like E.F. Hutton in a sense that when he talks, people listen. He does a great job with getting our offensive line organized, as does [C] Adam [Snyder]. And again, much like the receiver position, the more the merrier. Those guys are really improving and Jonathan, I'd say, is pretty much up to speed on things."
What's more likely, keeping four half backs or two fullbacks?
"That's hard to say at this juncture. We'll have to wait and see. Both positions are performing well and offer us some versatility. We'll just have to wait and see. That's going to be a decision that's probably made at the 11th hour."
Are you close to figuring out who your best five are for the O-Line?
"I'll go back to it's going to be an ongoing process where we get guys playing in different combinations more to really evaluate them and I think it will continue really until the 11th hour."
Do you expect Jonathan or Adam to get more playing time on Saturday at center?
"I think they'll both get pretty much equal playing time this week. I've been very pleased with both of their approaches to things. They've truly gotten better every day. That's kind of what we want to see out of everybody and those are two guys that have shown constant improvement."
What are your impressions of RB Xavier Omon?
"Xavier has done a really good job of maximizing his opportunities. For a guy that's not at the top of the depth chart, he's probably got three guys ahead of him right now, opportunities must be taken advantage of. I think he's done a really good job of knowing what to do, knowing our system and then getting out there on the field and executing it. I thought he played really well in that Raiders game. He showed some really good patience to the hole and then was able to get through the hole. Really did a nice job for us in that Raiders game."
Is it tough to evaluate a guy like that because the numbers look good, but obviously he's not going up against the members of the first and second string?
"I think you take that into account, but really the biggest thing for us is the day to day out here. We can tell out here. Then the game is obviously just another reference point. Day to day to day is where you really evaluate and then the game is just another day to evaluate, another opportunity to evaluate and see what we have."
You say it's just another day, but game speed is so different than practice speed. If you had to pick one or two areas on Saturday that you really want to learn from this offense that maybe you're lacking or you want to see more of, what would it be, what specific areas?
"It's everything. It's everything. We need to get better at everything in a hurry. From the huddle to getting to the ball, our communication, our blocking, our courses in the run game, our route running, everything. We need to get better at everything. And I'm not being cliché either. We need to get better at everything. We know it, we preach it, on everything, every day. Everything is the things we need to get better at."
Are you guys finished with your installation?
"I'd say our installation was a little different than normal with the offseason the way it was. We spread it out over time a little bit more. So, I'd say we're just about done with it, but it's been more of a gradual installation process than normal, just because a lot of it is stuff these guys have heard for the first time and we've had to take that into account. I'd say we're just about done with it."
Will you be game planning at all for the Texans?
"This week we play the Texans and we plan for everybody. We're not going to; we're still in training camp in our minds, is I guess the best way to say that. We're still trying to improve, get better, and the Texans give us another opportunity to go out, see where we are and evaluate our offense as a whole and our individual players. So, obviously we have to be aware of what challenges they present, and the challenges they present are many. They are very physical, explosive, they play hard, they've got a good pressure package, they got really talented players on defense, they play a 3-4 system, but they've got [LB] Mario Williams that kind of adds a different dimension to that. Very impressive on defense. Their team speed is good. They're physical like any [Texans' defensive coordinator] Wade Phillips defense really."
What is one asset of Vernon Davis that has impressed you the most in games and in practice?
"Well I don't know if there's one. I don't know if I've been around an athlete that's more explosive than him at any point of my career. Vernon is very explosive. He can go from zero to sixty when he needs to. He can rev up the engine in a hurry. Vernon is a great person, great to work with, very attentive, very much interested in the details of things, always looking for a way to get better. He's just an all around asset to have and really thankful that he's here and a 49er. Really looking forward to getting him the ball some here."
WR Chris Hogan and WR Dominique Zeigler have started practicing; do you see either of them being able to play in this upcoming game?
"You know you would have to ask [head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] that one. I can't answer that one at this time. Sorry about that."
With the experience of being an NFL coordinator, do you feel it's vastly different than being an NFL position coach?
"Yeah, I think, yes. To answer your question, yes it is very different. The demands are very different. The time demands, I think it's very different, but I‘d like to think our staff works extremely well together. Every member of our offensive staff is very important and we try to maximize what we have as a staff. I think we have a very strong offensive staff, so I lean on them a lot and in that sense I'm very fortunate."
Are you pleased in Alex Smith's development?
"Yeah, Alex is doing a great job. Comes in everyday, and again, not having an offseason with him, unfortunately, we're just taking it day-by-day and everyday he gets something a little bit better and we focus a little bit on something specific every day. There's some habits he's developed over time that, like anybody, we're trying to sharpen those up. He's doing a great job with that, so very pleased with how he's coming a long."
What do you like most about his game?
"Alex can think his way through things very well and Alex is a very attention-to-detail kind of guy that really wants to get it done right. He really wants to do his job. He wants to do his job well for his teammates and think there's a lot of value in that and I think everybody sees that. I think Alex does a lot of different things well and he's an athletic guy, who over time, he's had a lot of different influences in his career and we're trying to get Alex to see things the way we see them. There's a curve there and he's doing a great job of really cutting down that curve. Nothing but great things to say about how he's doing."
Are you the main play caller?
"You know, I would say yes, but if anyone has a good suggestion, my ears are always open."