The talk much of this offseason has been about the read option, and how teams are adjusting to defend it. We heard about the Green Bay Packers going down to Texas A&M to get some lessons. Other teams were in Palo Alto, talking to the Stanford Cardinal coaching staff. Teams have apparently spent a good deal of time learning what they can do. Add in Jim Harbaugh offering multiple complaints about the rules for hitting quarterbacks, and you'd think the 49ers only ran read option.
Mike Sando had an interesting article posted in the Nuggets comments this morning. Sando has gone from NFC West blogger to "NFL Insider", and his content seems to be hidden behind the Insider pay wall. This article discussed the zone read option and how there is a certain measure of overreaction to the play. It's important to address deficiencies against the read option, but the 49ers are able to do so much more than just that.
Sando threw out an interesting stat, although I would argue it is a little misleading. According to Sando, the 49ers had more offensive holding penalties (26) than Kaepernick had rushing attempts out of zone-read plays (21). Of course, we also know he handed off plenty from that zone read. I don't have those numbers, but that is worth remembering.
That being said, as Sando pointed out later, the 49ers success against the Packers (and other teams) came because of strong fundamentals, particularly along the offensive line:
San Francisco has manned its offensive front with strong, mobile linemen who can maximize unconventional blocking angles. They can pull and trap their way to a 200-yard rushing game.
The 49ers were effective in running the read option, but as we know, they have so many more weapons in their arsenal. And this has me wondering how much Jim Harbaugh has been sand-bagging this week. He has vociferously voiced his complaints about how the league enforces hits on the quarterback, and the idea of "running posture".
While I do think Harbaugh wants to protect his quarterback, I also wonder if a little bit of this is gamesmanship to keep the Packers thinking the 49ers are concerned about running their offense. I don't think the Packers take it overly serious, but if it gives them even a little bit of pause, isn't it worth it?