49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman chatted with the media yesterday, and in discussing A.J. Jenkins, he made some comments that while logical can be easily overlooked at times. Someone asked Roman about how one minute Jenkins will make a phenomenal catch, and another minute he will drop some catchable balls. He responded:
There's a lot swirling through his mind right now. He's trying to do everything perfectly. In that process, there's going to be a drop here, a drop there. I've seen it with a lot of players over the years where they just work through that and they start relaxing and playing as opposed to thinking and playing. A.J.'s doing a really good job all around. Would we like to see him catch every football? There's no question. I think we'll see more of that as we go. I think there's a process guys go through where there's just so much coming at them, mentally, physically, emotionally, the change of scenery, the change of the level of competition. You're trying to learn everything and when you think you got that, here comes another boatload of information, new plays, new formations, new rules. Now the soreness sets in and here comes some more plays, more formations, more this, more that. You just have to grind through it and have mental toughness. Lock your jaw and just continue to push through it. Then you start to play faster. Instead of catching four out of six, now it's five out of six. You keep grinding and it's just that process.
It's safe to say that things can sometimes come quicker to certain players than others. However, I also think this kind of thing can be noted in other players. For example, Josh Johnson comes into this quarterback battle at some measure of a disadvantage. While he has a variety of great tools, he is a year behind Scott Tolzien and Colin Kaepernick in learning the playbook. Some players can overcome this right off the bat, others might take more time.
For Josh Johnson, given how quickly decision time is approaching, this becomes an interesting conundrum for the coaching staff. You'll have four games of tape and plenty of practice notes to assess what you have seen up until final cuts on September 2. However, you are also in a situation where you might have to do some projection to decide whether a guy is worth keeping around. That's not to say that the coaching staff doesn't already potentially view this as an easy decision, but it is one more factor they might keep in mind when making their roster decisions.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - August 15, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
"Good afternoon, looking forward to playing the Houston Texans this week down in Houston. It will be our first time on the road, obviously, dealing with crowd noise and all the things that go into playing offensive football on the road. We've had a really good week of practice thus far and look to continue that trend today. Got a big practice coming up later. We've got a meeting before then. Guys are working real hard and it's getting closer to the season. We've got most of our offensive schemes in. Now we're trying to get things refined and get ready for this Houston Texans game. Any questions?"
The first week that you guys did a lot of the red zone stuff, it seemed like the defense really had the upper hand. Do you feel like the offense has made a lot of strides, this week in particular?
"We've made strides in the red zone, there's no question. When you practice against your defense, and our defense, there's none finer really, we're going to install things that not necessarily apply to our defense and work our way through them. We might not run those plays against them if we were playing them in a game. But, we need to install our core red zone package which may or may not be applicable to what our defense does. There are a lot of very distinct styles in red zone defense. When you look at red zone defense, I think you'll find that most defenses are as unique as they will be in that area of the field. Every team has a personality in the red zone that's very specific. That's something we'll try to focus in on week-to-week. I would definitely give our defense the upper hand early on. We're battling back though. It's a great test for us to play them in the red zone. They were pretty highly ranked last year as I remember. It's a work in progress, guys are working hard at it, coaches are working hard at it."
Does your offense have a personality in the red zone?
"Well, that's a good question. Our personality in the red zone, I would have to take myself and put myself in another team's shoes and look at our personality. I hope that they won't be able to find any fingerprints there. As far as us, we're looking for production and we want that to come in a lot of different ways. We're not looking for one specific person, or one specific thing, we're going to be multiple down there. However people want to label that and put the label on that, they can. Ultimately, we're looking for the type of production that helps us win."
Don't you have to put a label on it in the sense that you have to know how you're perceived by other teams in order to maximize what you do?
"Not necessarily. I'd say no."
What specific areas were you looking to challenge WR Michael Crabtree coming into this season after last year?
"To challenge him? Never really thought of it in those terms. Really, think of it more in terms of him developing, getting another year in our system through experience, coaching, reps, film studies, all those different things, physical health. Just allowing him to develop as a player. I think we're seeing that in this camp. Mike's having a really good camp. He's really dialed into what we're doing. He had that little issue he was working through. It's great to have him back out there."
CB Carlos Rogers was saying he looks faster, he's dropped weight, he looks faster and understands the defense. Have you seen the same thing?
"I would say so, and I would hope so. He was playing last year on a bad wheel. Battled his way through it. I think he's much healthier this year. He certainly appears to be a lot quicker and faster. Another year under his belt from an experience standpoint is very important."
Even though Crabtree missed most of the beginning of training camp, you had him in the starting lineup on Friday. What makes him so important to the offense that you have him as a starter even with the new guys that you brought in?
"That's [head] coaches [Jim Harbaugh's] decision and I think those decisions will stay behind closed doors. But Mike's one of our starters."
What makes him so important to the offense? Even though you brought in WRs Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, Crabtree still has that number one status it appears.
"Just being honest with you, we really don't look at it as a number one, number two. I'll go as far to say as whoever's name is on the list as having started the game accounts for nothing. It means nothing. Anybody that plays in the game is a starter as far I'm concerned because they have a role towards us winning. The number one, number two starter, non-starter, if a guy is playing, that's all that matters to me."
How important is Michael Crabtree to the offense?
"Very important. Very important, and Mike's continued development is very important as is every other player."
What excites you about having Michael Crabtree in your offense?
"A lot of things. Mike's a very sure-handed guy. He's got really good size, extremely good runner after the catch. I think he's a really good all-around player. When we needed some big plays last year he sure stepped up. The one in Seattle really comes to mind, up on the boundary on the left side and got us into field goal position when he just beat that corner and out-competed him for the ball. He's a good football player. The more the merrier. Bring ‘em on."
What were your impressions of the offense yesterday? They looked good in practice.
"In practice? We had a good day of practice yesterday all around. We were working on some things that we hadn't worked on in a little while and it was good to see the recall that the guys had. Running backs did a great job running the ball. [QB] Alex [Smith] was on fire yesterday in practice, just had one of those days where he was on the mark, deep, short, intermediate. Receivers caught the ball well. I thought the guys were running really well, the receivers. [TE] Vernon [Davis] continues to have a great training camp, just becoming a very, very well-rounded tight end. Can't say enough about Vernon Davis. When you think about it, the last game we played was against the [New York] Giants and unfortunately we didn't win that one. The first play of the game Vernon Davis blocked their nose guard and then on the fourth or fifth play, I can't remember, he ran by their corner for a 70-some yard touchdown. Not a lot of people can do that. He's a unique player who is really dialing in on the details of things and he has since the beginning of OTAs. Really excited about it. Vernon is really, really coming into his own as a player."
On the practice field, and it showed up in Friday's game too where WR A.J. Jenkins would make a phenomenal catch and then he'll drop a few, then he'll make another phenomenal catch. Is that just part of the rookie process, trying to learn and function physically at the same time?
"I think that's an accurate statement. There's a lot swirling through his mind right now. He's trying to do everything perfectly. In that process, there's going to be a drop here, a drop there. I've seen it with a lot of players over the years where they just work through that and they start relaxing and playing as opposed to thinking and playing. A.J.'s doing a really good job all around. Would we like to see him catch every football? There's no question. I think we'll see more of that as we go. I think there's a process guys go through where there's just so much coming at them, mentally, physically, emotionally, the change of scenery, the change of the level of competition. You're trying to learn everything and when you think you got that, here comes another boatload of information, new plays, new formations, new rules. Now the soreness sets in and here comes some more plays, more formations, more this, more that. You just have to grind through it and have mental toughness. Lock your jaw and just continue to push through it. Then you start to play faster. Instead of catching four out of six, now it's five out of six. You keep grinding and it's just that process. I think that's what A.J. is going through."
When your first team offense faces the scout team defense in practice, do you expect every play to be successful or every pass to be completed?
"When we run against our twos, I think there's certainly a level of expectation that's you would do better than you would against your ones. But we're more interested in the player-by-player execution. Say you call a route that's designed for Cover 3 and [defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] happens to call Cover 2. You want to go through the process, the quarterback's going to go through his read, find where he needs to get the ball. He might not have a 20-yard completion but you might have to check it down to your backs. Every play is an entity unto itself. Some plays are designed for certain coverage's. Some plays are great catch-all plays that are good against no matter what they do we have an answer. A hard play action pass with two receivers running deep crossing routes, ‘Well hey, they're in Cover 2, not so good.' But we've got to practice it. As you install, teach and get your system in, we're really not concerned with what our defense is doing so much as coaching our players what to do when this happens. Well, okay, now this happens and then this happens. It's more about how the players respond to that and learn than it is the immediate gratification of having a good play at that moment."
Two part question about Mike Person, you've moved him to the outside to play tackle. Why did you make that switch and how's he doing working on both sides?
"Mike's working hard. He's doing a good job. He's playing tackle and guard. He's getting reps at both. He just continues to develop. He's a young guy that had his first offseason of physical development which is so important for a lineman especially. He's coming along well and I expect really good things from Mike the rest of this preseason. This is his second year in it, so he's no stranger to our system. He's not learning so much now what to do, it's how to do it. It's a process with those linemen as it is with every other position, but there's a lot of little details that happen there. Fortunately, we got one of the best in the business with [offensive line coaches] Mike Solari and Tim Drevno working with the line, do a great job. They spend a lot of time with all of them. Mike's getting a lot of one-on-one work, so expect good things out of him. It's highly competitive on the O-Line. These next couple games are going to really speak a lot about what each player represents and where they're at."
Do you feel a little thin at the tackle spots behind the starters?
"Define thin for me. You'd love to have a bunch in the stable but right now [G/T] Alex Boone is as of right now winning the right guard job. We'll be ready to adjust if need be."
How is G Al Netter looked? Is he in the competition for the backup left tackle spot or is he more competing to make his spot?
"Well, I think both. I think he's doing both. He's doing good. He's doing really well. I thought he had a pretty darn good game the other night. While they're here, they are competing to get a spot. Netter's a heady guy, takes coaching well. He's a young guy and he's a guy that we'd certainly like to develop."
Is it sometimes hard for you to think back a year and think that this guy, FB Bruce Miller, was a defensive end just last year and now he's your starting fullback?
"Yeah, that's a credit to our scouting staff and Tom Rathman our running backs coach. There were a lot of times last year where we had our backfield, Bruce Miller a defensive end and [RB] Kendall Hunter who was a spread running back in the spread system at Oklahoma State. That's a credit to Tom and his diligence as a coach as it is to those young men. Bruce is one of the guys, with his story, playing defensive end and then coming into our system and playing fullback, it's somewhat remarkable. I don't want to give Bruce too much public credit, but he does a wonderful job. He's getting better. He's developing all the time. He's a sponge. If you tell him something or teach him something, he gets it. He's done a great job. That transition that he was able to do last year was pretty unique. He's doing well. Bruce is doing a good job."
You mentioned G Alex Boone, how is he developing? How close is that competition at RG?
"Boone had a good game the other night. I really like how he's adapting to the guard position. Things happen faster at guard than it does at tackle. A lot of things can change in a hurry in there at guard. There's a lot of action. Leverage is a premium, being able to play low. Alex has really improved; week-to-week he's gotten better. Thought he had a really good showing in the first preseason game, was very pleased with that. We'll take it from here. Thus far he's doing a really good job."