49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman met with the media Sunday afternoon before practice, and had a chance to discuss what we saw Thursday night, and what we might expect this Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
He opened discussing the wide receiver position, and particularly some of the players who might be starting there in the preseason. The 49ers run a lot of different personnel in and out on a play-by-play basis, so he implied that aside from the quarterback and offensive line, the "starting lineup" is not exactly constant. I'd say Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis probably count as starters as well, but you could even argue that all the running backs are starters, sort of. Gore is the guy getting most of the carries, but the 49ers will work in all three of their running backs on a regular enough basis.
Roman had a chance to discuss Vance McDonald's progress thus far, particularly in the blocking aspect. Roman is pleased with how he is developing as a blocker, although it was clear that there are still some basics he has to learn, or at least understand on a consistent basis.
Roman was asked about Jewel Hampton not appearing in Thursday's game, and he said he was working through something. Hampton remains out of practice today.
Here is the transcript for your Sunday afternoon/evening reading pleasure!
"Good morning. Entering our second preseason week. Guys are working real hard. We're working through a lot of situational stuff, base stuff. We got the Kansas City Chiefs in our second preseason game. So, another great chance to get out and evaluate what we're doing, who we got. And, guys are competing hard. There's a lot of good competition."
WR Marlon Moore started at receiver against Denver. Do you want to see different guys in with that starting group throughout the preseason or do you want it to be constant throughout the preseason?
"We look at starters as really, the offensive line and the quarterback are going to start every play. But whoever plays the first play of the game, he's in on the first play. We're a multiple personnel group team. If you're on the active roster you will have a role. That's just where our focus lies."
You've got so many receivers in camp. Are you able to get them all enough reps and do you reach a point as the season approaches that you want to get the guys that you think are going to have a role on this team more reps than the others?
"I think it's kind of a two-prong question. First being we're really going to make an effort. We've got good numbers there and we're going to make a real effort to get those guys the appropriate reps. Secondly, I don't know that, again we're a multiple personnel type of team and everybody is getting a pretty good amount of reps. So, I don't know that there's always going to be one guy that's in there with the ones. I think we've got some flexibility there and that flexibility will continue to grow."
How much weight does it carry with you to have a receiver such as WR Austin Collie who, really he and WR Anquan Boldin are the only guys who have really produced at a significant level in the NFL?
"I think Austin brings a great pedigree with him. He had an injury a little bit before that kind of halted that. But, Austin's a guy that understands the game, is a disciplined guy. He's learning our offense. Anytime you can have a guy that knows what to do, how to do it, understands coverage and all that, that's a bonus. But we're looking at the big picture of the player and Austin's in working hard every day. He's taking nothing for granted."
Do you adjust your play calling during a preseason game like you would during a regular season game or are you working more off of a script, how do you do it?
"In the preseason we're not so much concerned about what we call as oppose to who's in, what do we want to see them do, that type of thing. The tactical approach is one that some take. I don't know that we do. Preseason's a great time to build towards the season, but there's some things that we're looking at and evaluating schematically. I think it's more about the players and getting them out there and seeing what we can do."
So it's a bit more predetermined than reacting to what the other team is showing? Is that a fair assessment?
"I would say that's pretty fair."
TE Vance McDonald had several nice catches but probably a couple ones that he could have reeled in. Overall, what was your assessment of his performance?
"I thought Vance took a good step forward in the game. Liked the look in his eye before the game. I think he graded out pretty well. Like anybody else, there's plays that he wished he could have back. But for a good young guy like him, great learning experience. And one of the key things you look for is everybody makes mistakes we're all human. Do you sit and make the same mistake twice. Guys that don't, then they progress and they just keep getting better and that's the emphasis."
What's that about the look in his eye?
"He had a great look in his eye. He was ready to play against somebody else in a different color jersey. There's that a faraway eye and there's a steely eye glare. So, I would define his as more of a steely eyed glare variety."
How would you assess his blocking up to this point?
"His blocking, as everything, it's a work in progress but I'm pleased of where he's at and where he's going. He keeps making strides. There's some key components that fundamentally he's just got to understand and that's a process and that's what training camp is for. He's right where he needs to be."
Why hasn't WR A.J. Jenkins been able to put it all together?
"A.J.'s working hard. He had a couple plays the other night that he'd like to have back but he had some good plays. We're of the ilk that you come in after a game, you learn from it, you move on and you get better and that's what we're doing.
It seems like just watching practices, he has his good plays but he also has plenty of not good plays. Is it concentration? Why do you think that level of consistency just hasn't been there?
"I think A.J.'s out there competing hard. I think everybody has those plays. You got to bounce back from them. You got to get better. You got to learn from them. I think A.J. does a lot of really good things and he's just got to continue to work and get better day by day."
What do you say he does best?
What does he do best?
"I think there's a lot of things he does well, very well. I don't know that I'd pick one. He makes some spectacular catches. He's got big strong hands. Makes good catches. Is getting better with his route running. He's improving really in everything he does. It's just a matter of down-in down-out consistency. I think there's a lot of, we all need to strive to be better day in and day out, play in and play out."
Will he continue to get more reps than the other receivers in practice?
And in games?
"A.J.'s going to get a healthy amount of reps as are a lot of the other guys."
WR Kassim Osgood came in with the reputation for his work on special teams but has he maybe surpassed your expectations as far as what he can do as a receiver?
"I think he's done a very nice job. From the day he got here his spiral notebook was filled with information. He was cramming for the test when he got here and he's really picked up the system well. I thought he had a really nice game the other night. He's a guy that's got really good size and understanding of the game. A really smart guy."
Why didn't RB Jewel Hampton play in the game the other night?
"He's just working through something."
But it's not a factor of his pass blocking, pass protection anything like that?
Just flipping ahead a couple of days, when you've been so instrumental in the development of the quarterback, what's it going to be like for you to see QB Alex Smith on that other sideline Friday night?
"He's a nameless faceless opponent. Loved working with Alex. Very happy for Alex's success. Very appreciative of all the contributions he made while a 49er. Wish him nothing but the best. He's a fine, fine competitor and quarterback."
Just about this time last year, we were just watching QB Colin Kaepernick in practice. His consistency as far as his accuracy seemed to be spotty. Probably not the first time you've fielded this question but is there any couple of things, he's a very accurate passer now, was it just mechanical thing that he had to learn? Confidence do you think?
"I just think it's all of the above. It's just trying to get better every day. Somebody that wants to get better every day, willing to work at it, has the ability to do so. Really it's everything. It's not just one thing. You can't just say, hey we changed his elbow position or some clinic talk. It's not that at all. It's him coming in every day and working through everything. The quarterback has a lot on their plate mentally, physically. I think it's his work ethic, desire to get better and desire to push himself. He's very much a self-starter. I think that is a great contributing factor to that improvement, and it's something that we need to continue to get better at."