New offense unlikely to debut in Baltimore

Reading between the lines might tell you the 49ers offense could have a different look in 2014. But don't expect offensive coordinator Greg Roman to unveil those looks in Thursday's preseason opener against the Ravens.

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman is very good at keeping secrets. So when he says things like “(We) really just tried to streamline things,” when asked about the playbook, it’s worth digging into.

Roman alluded to changes in the team’s offensive strategy earlier in the offseason, saying the coaching staff broke the scheme down to its most fundamental levels and worked its way back up. After Tuesday, Roman said, the entire offense has been installed.

”As you go through the first couple of days, you’re installing basically what we would call our core offense, kind of like the keel of a ship or the trunk of a tree,” he said. “And then the branches, the things that branch off, the situational stuff, this play, or this type of play and this concept might be good against five of the teams we run this year because they do this.”

The results of that new line of thinking remain to be seen. But it’s doubtful we’ll see much in Thursday’s preseason opener in Baltimore, where the 49ers traveled Tuesday afternoon. Colin Kaepernick will likely play a series or two at the most, while Frank Gore isn’t likely to do anything that would put him at risk for injury, either.

The 49ers finished 2013 with the 24th-ranked offense for a few different reasons - mostly relating to the passing game, where they were 30th. A streamlined playbook could mean fewer audibles at the line of scrimmage for Kaepernick to worry about in his third season as starter. It could also have something to do with renewed depth at wide receiver with a healthy Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton plus the additions Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and rookie Bruce Ellington.

”When something hits somebody’s brain, maybe it hits it a little cleaner,” Roman said. “There’s less grey area involved in certain things. And obviously, not everything gets adjusted, but you do your best to do it. You’re always trying to make it better.”

But just as Roman did last August when he kept the offense very simple, don’t expect too many interesting wrinkles to be thrown around Thursday night or the rest of the preseason.

--Since LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter have both gone down, San Francisco added two running backs: Alfonso Smith and Glenn Winston. Both were brought in to eat up preseason carries so Gore and new No. 2 Carlos Hyde can remain fresh for the regular season.

--For the starting offensive line, projected starters Daniel Kilgore, Jonathan Martin and Joe Looney will likely see significantly more time than Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. Right tackle Anthony Davis will be out and is still awaiting to make his practice debut after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

”I think that’s probably going to happen. We haven’t sat down and really gone through that stuff. But, I would say the other guys probably won’t get as much as them,” said Roman.

Martin has struggled at times during camp, particularly when going against the first-team defenders in Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. In Monday’s practice, the final padded session before leaving for the east coast, Martin saw reps at left tackle for the first during camp. Joe Staley will likely be given the same treatment as Kaepernick and Gore, which would allow for Martin to get a volume of snaps on the left side of the line.

Looney remains a relative unknown. He’s had a good camp and San Francisco likes what he did in his breakout performance last season against the Rams. But the preseason will be important for him while Alex Boone continues his holdout. And with Jonathan Goodwin making every start at center over the last three seasons, Kilgore will benefit greatly from a big workload at center.


E-mail Niners Digest:

Follow Editor in Chief Chris Biderman on Twitter.

Get updates from NinersDigest by following here and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and analysis.

Niners Digest Top Stories