Tomorrow the 49ers play their first preseason game of the season, which just about guarantees that we will see them at their most vanilla. Greg Roman himself said on Tuesday, "[W]e'll kind of dial it back to square one as we go to Baltimore, and really, really focus on our fundamentals, execution as a unit."
But, since we've been starved for months now, we won't care. I'm excited to see anything 49ers related on my TV screen. Nonetheless, vanilla football is what we should expect. Blitz packages will likely be hidden; the offense won't try anything altogether unique; the secondary won't try to hide their coverages as fully as they would in a preseason game. And this is okay. It's fine for teams to break into full contact at an easy pace. It's also fine for teams to make sure that they have the basic elements of their offenses and defenses down pat before trying to add in more and more wrinkles.
Given that, I am not expecting to see much in the way of 3-WR sets on Thursday. I'd love to see it, but I don't expect it to happen. Historically, this offense loves TEs and RBs. And for good reason: this team is really good with base packages that involves heavy TE and RB sets. It has played to the strengths of the team, specifically to the talents of Vernon Davis and Frank Gore.
But the talent on this team has grown in new directions: the WR corps is now deeper than we've seen in years. People are excited about Quinton Patton, for example (and rightly so, I think), and he could be at best the fourth best WR on the roster, right now. Could he emerge as a fantastic receiver with the skill set and potential to be higher on the depth chart? Of course, that's how deep the WR position is.
As a consequence, I'd like to see the team incorporate the 3-WR set into their base offensive packages. I'm not advocating that the team abandon their more traditional sets, but I think that the talent on this team should force more diversification of offensive sets.
Do I think this will happen? Well, it's unlikely for a variety of reasons. First, just given the history of this offense makes me believe that the coaches probably won't make the 3-WR set a base package (though I hope I'm wrong). Second, since it's the first preseason game, the team might hesitate to show new and unusual looks; they might not want to show opposing teams that three WR sets will be a much more frequent look than they had traditionally showed before.
But, should they show some three WR sets, that would seem to suggest that the 49ers are committed to maximizing their offensive potential by getting as many players with talent as possible on the field.
I pose this question: do you think we are going to see 3-WR sets on Thursday? If so, how many?