San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman met with the media on Saturday, and we've got the transcript down below. Given that Roman's press conference came shortly after the news that Kendall Hunter suffered the ACL tear, it is not a surprise that the discussion focused on the running backs. There were questions about each of the "big 3" still there in Carlos Hyde, LaMichael James, and Marcus Lattimore. Additionally, there were some questions about the specifics of their work, including pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield.
"Sorry if I kept anybody waiting. Just got done with a team presentation by [running backs coach] Tom Rathman and [secondary coach] Ed Donatell that has me even more invigorated for today. But it's great to be back. Think we've had a very productive spring. As we start the build-up for training camp, really like the mindset of our players, pretty much taking one day at a time, really have a present-time consciousness about them, meetings. It's very exciting. Any questions?"
Can we ask what the presentation entailed?
"You can ask."
Can you answer?
"Well, I'm going to keep those matters behind closed doors. But that was a great presentation."
So that was a tease for us?
"Hey, it was a little plug for coach Rathman and coach Donatell. And it's all true. It was a great presentation."
Was it a video or a skit?
"It was a combination of the above."
"Possibly. You're getting warm. But any other questions?"
Obviously losing RB Kendall Hunter, how big of a blow was that to what you had envisioned for this offense?
"Well, based on what Kendall had done in the spring and the first couple days of camp, certainly it's a blow in that sense. He looked so good and really was back to form. Kendall, doesn't get any better than him as a person or as a contributor. No. You know, next man up is not a cliché, it's a way of life. I'm sure Kendall will do like he did from his prior injury and attack his rehab with great enthusiasm, and we look forward to the day that he can be back out with us."
Who is the next man up?
"Well, you know, thankfully our front office and scouting department have done a great job of building some depth, and quality depth. It is not necessarily a person. I think that will unfold, Tim [Kawakami], throughout this training camp. I think those guys will get a lot of good opportunities."
You've praised RB Carlos Hyde's learning ability and learning curve in spring. Is he a guy who has a legitimate shot to be that backup right away?
"Well, I think he's going to have every opportunity to do that. Now, today is our first practice in pads, so, you know, that's when you really start to see. You know, it's an evaluation every day, every play. How does a guy handle training camp? Are there peaks and valleys? Or does he keep doing that? All those things. So, there's nothing that Carlos Hyde has done since he's been here for me not to like him a lot as a coach."
In terms of the contact, first contact practice, are you looking at this is a big thing in terms of how they run or also the pass protection because it's such an instrumental part in your offense?
"Yeah, I mean that's a great point. That is big. In the National Football League, when you look, just take a year worth of stats and see how many times you throw the ball, how many times will the running backs actually be responsible to block somebody, as a halfback, quite a few. Several, several hundred. So, that is a big part of the equation and what we're seeing nowadays, a lot of guys don't have a ton of work relative to what they use to in pass protection based on the type of schemes that are run in college, so. I think it shows a lot about a back in a lot of ways - run decision, hitting the hole, but certainly pass-blocking is a premium."
Will you have a period in today's practice, one-on-one pass protection in pads?
"Well, yes, they're going to get plenty of work today, every day. And some days it'll be a drill, some days it'll just be built into the framework of practice. A blitz drill, for example."
How much up to this point, even without the pads, can you tell about a guy as far as being on point with his assignments and just the technique that he can demonstrate when picking up a linebacker?
"Oh, I think you can tell just about everything, in terms of a guy's, does he get what you're saying, does he make that adjustment, does he know what he's doing, is there any hesitation? Carlos has afforded himself really, really well. And then that's what's great about the spring and what you're building up. You're taking care of a lot of the metal aspects of things. Now we're getting more into mental plus physical. The equal sign is what you've got."
I've got two questions in the same subject. How was Kendall in that area and you mentioned a lot of college running backs don't have a whole lot of experience in pass protection [inaudible].
"To answer your first question, Kendall really has gotten better at everything since he's been here. So, I would say he was definitely not perfect early on in pass protection. Has gotten much better in all aspects of it - recognition, adjustments, and then the physical. So, as far as, Carlos and [RB] Marcus [Lattimore], I mean, they've got the physical stature to do it. Big, strong, physical guys. They have the want-to to do it, and so they will be very effective at it."
Are you expecting Lattimore to be able to practice pretty soon and do you need to see him practice pretty soon?
"You know, we'll have to wait and see, really. That's more of a day-to-day type of situation. So, I really don't want to speculate on that."
What have you been able to tell about him? Is it still just a projection mostly? As a coach for Lattimore.
"Yeah, I think until you get out there in live action, yes. But when you really go back, which we did, and look at his college tape and what he's put on film as a football player, you get a great picture from that."
What do you need to see from RB LaMichael James this training camp?
"Oh, you know, with LaMichael, again, just continuing to improve every phase of his game. You know, two years ago, two seasons ago, to the middle towards the end of the season, he got a lot of work going through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl. And, he was pretty effective. And the way things played out last year, didn't get a lot of opportunities but that has no impact, don't take anything from that. That was really circumstance more than anything. So, there's a lot of things we can do with them. Multi-dimensional player."
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."
In yesterday's practice, you guys had the quarterback accuracy drill where they're throwing it into the net and it seemed like Kaepernick was pretty frustrated that he wasn't hitting the target and I'm wondering, is accuracy just improving on that something that he's really trying to work on this camp?
"I think so. I think he's trying to work on everything, really. And, you know, that's certainly one phase of his game is good, but he wants to make it even better. And he wants to win everything. Happened to be a competition and you know he wants to win everything he does. So, we love that. We love it.
If G Alex Boone doesn't appear for a long time, do you feel comfortable that you have someone on the offensive line that can start Week 1?
"There's no question. It's just like any other position. Somebody goes down, it's next man up. It's not the first time its happened and that's what training camp is for. So, really like our mentality on our offensive line, the feel I'm getting from them this year starting in the offseason. It's [T Joe] Staley and the veteran guys, just the leadership, that kind of attitude that they bring every day to work. It's something that I can tell that they're going to have one of those years."