One thing that frequently comes up in discussion of the 49ers offensive game plan is why we do not see more screen passes. Greg Roman spoke to the media on Saturday, and he ended up discussing screen passes, and getting running backs involved in the pass game. It started with a question about Carlos Hyde, and moved on from there:
How are Carlos Hyde's hands? Is it a priority for you to get the tailbacks more involved in the passing game this season?
"You know, I for one love throwing to the backs because a lot of times people forget about them. I know there are some defensive coaches that say, ‘You know what? They'll never find them.' And I do think there are certain teams in this league that are really good at involving their backs in the passing game. So, to answer your question, Carlos' hands have been very good, very good thus far. Look forward to definitely getting our backs involved in the passing game. I mean, a lot of passes to backs are extended handoffs."
In that sense, your few changes on the offensive line with former center Jonathan Goodwin gone, a younger player will be there. Do you think you guys will be more equipped to do that to setup for screen passes because of the changing dynamic of the offensive line?
"That's a great question. You know, we'll see, we'll see. I mean, I think, to be specific, [C] Daniel Kilgore brings an athletic type of profile to the position. Really good in space, gets to the second level and is just a very good athlete. So, we'll have to judge him on his own merits."
Do you think that is important that not only guys are able to use screens but at least have the threat of a screen? Because it never seemed like it was even a legitimate option for you guys last season. Defenses, I'm sure, adjusted accordingly.
"Yeah, I don't know how much they adjusted. We weren't seeing the traditional opportunity, great-screen-look opportunities, with [QB Colin] Kaepernick's dynamic ability to pull the ball down. People weren't just rushing up the field mindlessly to a spot. And a lot of teams that are really good in screens, that's what they see. So, does that make sense?"
"OK. But you know, we work screens, and we always have them in our back pocket."
There are a couple interesting points to take from this exchange. The first is his mention of Daniel Kilgore's athleticism. Jonathan Goodwin was a solid center, but given his age, athleticism was not exactly something the 49ers could really anticipate from him. Adding a younger center opens the door for what could be more creative use of the offensive line. It's also worth noting he went straight to Kilgore when talking about the center position. Marcus Martin is on the NFI list, so this is not surprising, but it's still interesting to some extent.
The other notable point is his mention of Colin Kaepernick's ability potentially removing screens from the equation to some extent. He talks about how defenses see Kap back there, and are less inclined to frequently bring extra blitzers. In the 2013 divisional round matchup with the Packers, Green Bay got aggressive coming after Kap, and they were absolutely destroyed. It makes some sense that defenses will be a little more hesitant in bring the heat.