Teams don't typically unload the full playbook during the preseason, but fans can generally expect something a little closer to the real thing when the third preseason game rolls around. The San Francisco 49ers have been running a very basic and very ineffective offense. Only they know how much of that offense is representative of the real thing, but my guess is "not very much."
The most interesting aspect of the 49ers' offense, or rather the biggest question mark, is how they plan to use the wide receivers. Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are the top two receivers and neither will struggle to get on the field, but after that it's a bit unclear.
For the purpose of this discussion let's assume that Stevie Johnson beats out Brandon Lloyd for the No. 3 receiver role. Will the 49ers be using more three-wide sets? I think that's probably likely, but will we see any of that on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers? That I'm unsure of.
If you missed it from earlier this week, Johnson spoke with the media on Wednesday and the Press Democrat had the transcript. After Johnson said that he's good to go when it comes to his minor injury sustained in the second preseason game, he was asked where he fits on this team and three-wide receiver sets.
Johnson said that he isn't thinking about "who's going to be out there in certain personnels," but that the 49ers have good players and "everybody can't be on the field at once." Johnson was then asked if he's spending more time in the three- and four-wide receiver sets and he said that the coaches "are doing well at mixing it up right now. We've all been rotating when we go three-wide or two-wide."
He was asked to elaborate about his time spent in three-wide or four-wide sets. Johnson replied that they've been rotating "so it's all the same," but that "everybody already knows that the bulk of it will be with Crab and Boldin. We're just fitting in right after that."
Johnson said that he's spent time at all three positions. I find that particularly interesting, because yes, overnight the 49ers will not switch to a team that runs three-wide receiver sets half the time. That's too drastic of a change for them to implement. But it sounds like there will be a lot more of it than last year. Of course, it sounds like it has been made clear to everyone that Crabtree and Boldin will get the bulk of the looks.
My guess is the 49ers will use quite a bit of the three-wide sets on Sunday against the Chargers, but that we'll still be seeing very basic plays not representative of what we'll see in the regular season.