Editor's note: 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman spoke to the media from Santa Clara on Friday. Below is a transcript of his comments.
“Afternoon. We’ve got a division game against the Rams. We know them well, they know us. [Rams defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams is back there as the d-coordinator. We have a lot of respect for him. He’s doing a great job with that defense. And, it really starts up front with those guys. They’ve got a really pretty special player named [Rams DE] Robert Quinn to our left. And, it brings back a lot of memories of [former NFL DE] Bruce Smith when I first got into the NFL.
But, you combine him with [Rams DT Michael] Brockers and [Rams DT Kendall] Langford and [Rams DE William] Hayes, the pretty much eight-man rotation they get going there, that’s kind of their philosophy, roll them through and keep them as fresh as they can. Very experienced linebacking corps with [Rams LB Alec] Ogletree, [Rams LB James] Laurinaitis in the middle directing traffic and [Rams LB Jo-Lonn] Dunbar. And the secondary is the number one pass defense statistically in the NFL right now and doing a great job with [Rams CB Janoris] Jenkins who we all know is a very dangerous corner, does a great job of reading routes, sitting on things. And then [Rams S T.J.] McDonald and [Rams S Rodney] McLeod at safety.
You could see McLeod really, really coming as with McDonald, a couple of guys there that they’ve developed there. And a rookie who’s doing a really good job in [Rams CB E.J.] Gaines. So, they’ve got a really good blend of youth and experience. I think everybody in the National Football League understands what Robert Quinn brings to a game and can bring to a game. I know his stats aren’t real big right now, but we think he’s playing better this year than he’s ever played. I really think they got some young guys that are contributing in there too. [Rams DT Aaron] Donald gets in there, the kid from Pitt and [Rams DB Lamarcus] Joyner when they get into their nickel package. A pretty diverse defense schematically. Have a lot of personalities that can do a lot of things and one of the top teams in the National Football League as far as blitzing. So, they’re going to test every rule you have. Any questions?”
When you have a running game that likes to try to wear down opponents by the second half, third, fourth quarter, is that harder to do when you’re facing a team like the Seahawks or the Rams that do have that eight-man rotation and keep guys fresh throughout the game?
“Yeah, I mean, generally speaking you can rotate eight guys through that don’t play very well and then it’s not going to make that much of a difference. It should however make a difference right? I think it more comes down to execution and are they playing for the pass or the run. When guys are blitzing the house it’s feast or famine in the run game right? You could have a free hitter or you make him miss and then you’re gone. So, it’s a little bit more, we call it outhouse or castle, feast or famine. Against a team like this in the run game you have to have patience and perseverance knowing that, hey they just might call up a cover-zero blitz out in the middle of the field and storm the castle. So, it can be a lot of different factors.”
Are you seeing less of that? When you came into the league, did defenses start to fatigue in the second half and do you see less of that nowadays?
“I think what kind of approach you take. If you’re really leaning on them and pounding them, you’re going to wear them down. But, if you’re the nail and not the hammer then it’s just the opposite. It really hasn’t changed much at all. Teams that do roll through those D-lines, they’re committed to it. This is not the first team this season that we’ve played that does that. But, you can definitely notice a difference at times.”
Laurinaitis was saying yesterday that when RB Frank Gore or RB Carlos Hyde are in that the plays don’t vary, they’ll both run the similar plays. So, from a coaching standpoint, how do you decide at what time Carlos goes in to spell Frank?
“That’s a little bit thought out ahead of time. But, at the same time it’s a little bit reactive during the game too. Some of it’s planned, some of it’s more just on the fly based on what just happened, you know? We want to try to do a good job of striking a balance there that works.”
How do you temper that with Frank’s desire to run and run and run and run?
“We’re on the same page. We are on the same page completely. I want players that want to be in there and whatnot. But, I also like players that you can reason with and explain the bigger picture to and that’s Frank.”
What is the bigger picture with Frank?
“Well, we don’t want to just ride that stallion all day every day. There’s just a point of diminishing returns at some point. That just holds true for any player at that position. Who gets hit more than running backs? So, it’s something that we’re on the same page with.”
Do you feel like you guys are in better position now than you ever have been to be able to manage Frank not only through the course of a game, but also through the course of the season?
“I hate comparing things. But, I think we’re in good shape. I feel confident and I think Carlos Hyde’s an ascending player and we’ll have a chance to work with another running back here pretty soon.”
Let’s talk about that other running back (RB Marcus Lattimore). Have you been able to catch any glimpse of him and see where he is and what the plan is for when he starts getting out there on the field?
“The only thing I’ve really seen is him working out, physically, doing drills and whatnot. He looks good.”
Is there room on the 46 for a third running back who won’t be playing special teams?
“You’ll have to see at that time. You’ve just got to wait and see how things are at the appropriate time. Too early to answer.”
You mentioned the Rams have the best statistical passing defense, but they only have one sack. When you look at the tape, what’s your explanation of that?
“Oh man, it’s almost a setup, OK? Because when you watch the tape, I mean come on, they’re this far away, the quarterback’s getting rid of the ball or something happens or he just dishes it, it’s just getting out of his hand. They’re committing so many resources to 94 [Rams DE Robert Quinn] because 91 [Rams DE Chris Long] is not playing. But, make no mistake about it; we will not be lulled into that trap because all you’ve got to do is watch the film. 94 is playing better than he did last year.”
Why do you say that?
“He’s added to his repertoire. He has a great understanding of formations, what’s around him, what he’s going to do versus certain looks. When people try to double team him he’s got different answers, more answers. Physically he looks better than ever.”
Your team, traditionally, has run the ball more than the average team in the NFL. Now, you have four proven, veteran wide receivers. Did you ever, you or head coach Jim Harbaugh, talk to those guys and just explain, ‘Hey, there’s going to be some weeks where you may not going to get that many balls?’ Just make sure everyone was on the same page and stayed happy throughout the game?
“Hey, you want to come over here with me and have a talk? That’s the first thing we talk about as an offense when we get together. Some games are going to start tilting one way, some games the other. Some games you might have this many, some games that many. But, we got a group of guys that are focused on doing their job to help the team win. My experience has been players, units, teams that take that approach, when it’s all said and done, they’re sitting where they want to sit and everybody has achieved a level of personal and team achievement as long as everybody’s pulling for the team.”
A lot of times when there’s a lot of field goals kicked like on Sunday with five, people say, ‘OK, well, that’s sort of the bad point. You didn’t get into the end zone.’ Since you and Jim have taken over, you’ve kicked way more field goals on anyone else and had the best record over that time. Does that kind of prove that maybe there’s a little bit of fallacy there and that field goals aren’t exactly evil?
“Field goals are evil? Who said that?”
Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
“We got to get them checked. You’re trying to win the football game and you do so however you can. And the accumulation of points is certainly part of that. Great job by our field goal unit the other day, [K] Phil [Dawson], the field goal unit. Couple things in the red zone last week, we should’ve scored touchdowns. We’re always striving to do that. However, each game is a little bit different. We’re going to try to get better in every area. Certain games play out different ways and you just got to make those decisions based on what’s going on.”
When QB Colin Kaepernick is flushed out, is it his natural tendency to run left? Is that the side he prefers, and if so, is that something you’d prefer he’d not do given that he is right-handed?
“We’re well aware of all those metrics. He’s aware of them, too, really, because we know other teams study that stuff. It all depends on how things happen on a particular play. If there’s a bunch of guys over here, you’re not going to go to right just to break the statistic. ‘Hey, we broke the statistic, now they can’t say it anymore’, yeah, but he got splattered for an eight-yard loss. You got to instinctively play the game and good things happen.”
Jim said you presented him with a reel on WR Brandon Lloyd in the offseason. Him being a year out of football, and he’s proven he can make those plays, but, what did, I guess what I’m trying to ask, why did you think he could still make those plays being a year out of football?
“Well, I think [general manager] Trent [Baalke], Jim, we all talked to him a couple of years ago. We always felt like he had a dimension to his game that was special. You just don’t know for sure so you got to get out on the practice field and see how it goes. It was very similar with [former NFL WR] Randy Moss. You weren’t quite sure. You just got to see it. Once you see it, and he’s an experienced veteran guy, you don’t want to overwork, if that’s the right word, or what not. We’ve got a lot of capable guys, but he certainly makes us better. Really, at no point did he show that he couldn’t do it at practice. So, that’s really the answer. Just roll the balls out and let’s go and see what we got. It’s that simple.”
Is that something you do a lot in the offseason? Do you make a lot of reels of other players?
“Oh, yeah, we study all the players, yeah. There’s no question.”
Did Lloyd come out here a week or so before he signed, is that correct?
“I can’t remember.”
He did come out here? He worked out for you guys?
“Can’t quite remember that. I’m really focused on the Rams.”
Did he have the reel to show that this was a guy who can make plays downfield?
“Oh, yeah, there’s no question. Adjusting to the ball. Also, he’s been a hard guy to cover one-on-one throughout the course of his career. When you look at his highlights over the course of time, it’s an impressive a body of work as you might find.”
Is he best on the sideline?
“Could you explain that?”
Around the sidelines?
“Oh, I see what you’re saying. Outside the numbers?”
“That’s where he’s made most of his hay as more of an isolation-type receiver outside the numbers. Yeah, you’re exactly right. And he can work the boundary now. He makes catches in practice that’s ridiculous. [former NFL WR] Cris Carter-esque on the sideline.”
What have you seen from T Joe Staley and T Jonathan Martin and how did last week against Kansas City prepare them for Robert Quinn?
“Good question. Joe is Joe. Joe is one of the best tackles in the league, and he’s constantly working every day to get better. From the first day of OTAs, he has been laser-like in his focus. It’s been very impressive. He’s been a great captain for us thus far. I think Jon, I think they both understood, they looked at the film, understood what they were dealing with on the edge, and really, really screwed it down and they did a really good job. That game’s over but that’s a good test for Quinn. Quinn is a little bit different. Different style. This is a new week, new study, new preparation, new problems to fix, new challenges to overcome.”
Will Quinn stay on Joe’s side?
“Yeah, for the most part. [Comcast SportsNet Bay Area writer] Matt [Maiocco], it’s like 98, 99 percent of the time.”
Was last week a particularly good run-blocking game?
“It was much improved. I think we took great strides in that area last week. There were a couple things that we all understand could’ve been better. But, it was outstanding in a lot of ways. Really a lot of credit to the offensive line, tight ends, the backs, receivers blocking downfield. Really, everybody. It was really good execution. Could’ve been better, though. I think we got to watch it, some certain things from that game, and understand some simple things could’ve led to more points in the red zone for example.”
Seemed like you guys had a lot of success running right up the middle in the second half. There were some plays where G Mike Iupati got right up to the linebackers quickly. Is that an adjustment you made at halftime?
“Little bit. I think [C Daniel] Kilgore did such a good job inside that it really opened that stuff up. A lot of blocks ended up being Kilgore against their nose guard, who’s a pretty darn good player. He was winning. Once you see that happening, then you can start feeding the beast so to speak. We were able to get Mike up to the backer pretty quick and that was big.”
Do you see a direct correlation between how many snaps FB Bruce Miller gets and how well the running game does?
“Bruce is a good player in the run game. Now, some of our one-back runs, man, they could’ve been big plays for us this year. I’ve got four of them jumping in my mind right now. We just got to fix a few of them and so easily correctable. And that’s something we look to do here moving forward.”
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