The 49ers selected Alabama running back Coffee in the third round of the recent NFL draft to help take some wear and tear off Gore, as well as have the team accomplish its mission.
The 49ers want to be a tough, physical football team. And that's exactly the kind of runner they should be getting with Coffee.
When asked to describe himself as a runner, Coffee answered, "Hard-nosed, physical. One-cut runner. I try to get up the field in a hurry."
Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said he wants his unit to be able to do everything to account for what the defense is doing.
"We would like to be a physically, tough-minded football team," he said.
Coach Mike Singletary has made it known he wants the 49ers to get far away from the finesse offense that former coordinator Mike Martz preferred. Singletary fired Martz, and then set out to find a coordinator who shared his vision. Singletary said he wants the 49ers to be able to run the ball down teams' throats in the fourth quarter.
But Raye said he is not limiting the team to just running the ball with the physical approach he wants to see.
"It doesn't lend itself to the fact that you only need to be physical to run the ball," Raye said. "You need to be physical to pass-protect and do the other facets of the game also.
"So what we want is emotionally strong and tough players, mentally and physically, and that would relate, in my mind, to both run and pass. That's the direction in which we're building this thing and moving forward."
And that approach seems to be consistent with Coffee's idea, too.
"It's like, 'You're trying to tackle me? You're trying to hurt me? I'd rather hurt you first,'" Coffee said. "So that's the way I see it."
Coffee should fit nicely into the meat-and-potatoes running team he has made it known he wants the 49ers to be this season.
Singletary describes the 49ers' 2006 offense under Norv Turner as an approach he admired. That season, Gore set the 49ers' franchise record with 1,695 rushing yards.
But the 49ers' first-round draft pick last month was somebody who is known a lot more for his high-flying exploits in the passing game. The 49ers selected Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the No. 10 overall pick, a play-making wideout who was simply to good a prospect to pass up at that spot.
While Raye wants the 49ers to take on a tough persona, he said the addition of Crabtree does not compromise that goal.
"We are going to incorporate him and his abilities into what we do and hopefully he gets himself involved in the competition," Raye said.
Raye said the whole notion that the 49ers want to eschew the passing game has been overblown this offseason.
"I think it's a matter of interpretation by the media and the public perception," Raye said. "But at this point, I don't see it as run-oriented or pass-oriented. What we are doing is installing both run and pass equally."
The 49ers have the makings of a strong running game with Coffee complementing Gore, who is the first player in franchise history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
Where the 49ers need help is in the passing game. The club is currently holding a quarterback competition involving Shaun Hill and Alex Smith.
The 49ers have a solid group of wide receivers with the addition of Crabtree, who is slated to start at split end. Crabtree figures to be able to learn from veteran teammate Isaac Bruce.
"He's a great player in my eyes," Crabtree said. "I feel like I used to watch him when I was younger. I can't wait to learn whatever it is he has for me to learn. I'm going to try to call him every day to learn something."
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The 49ers got a jump on the rest of the NFL this week by signing two members of their seven-player draft class.
Linebacker Scott McKillop, the team's fifth-round pick, and defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, the second of the team's seventh-round selections, each signed four-year contracts.
The players become the second and third 2009 draft picks to sign contracts with their NFL teams this offseason. Quarterback Matthew Stafford – the No. 1 overall selection by the Detroit Lions – signed his contract prior to the start of the draft.
Terms of the two contracts were not made available, but the 10th player taken in the fifth round last season, defensive tackle DeMario Pressley by the New Orleans Saints, signed a three-year deal worth about $1.3 million. That deal included a signing bonus of close to $139,000.
The 35th player taken in the seventh round last year, defensive end Rob Jackson by the Washington Redskins, signed a four-year deal worth roughly $1.75 million. That deal included a signing bonus of just over $41,000.
"It says a lot about these young men that they have made it a priority to get their contract negotiations out of the way early," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said. "Now they have the ability to focus solely on helping to make this team better and starting their professional careers off on the right foot. The cooperation we received from their agents was tremendous."
Both players are represented by Athletes First, an agency based in Irvine that lists David Dunn, Mark Humenik and Joby Branion as its lead agents.
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The 49ers begin organized team activities on Monday, and most of the team is expected to participate.
The only known players who are ineligible to participate are undrafted rookies Alex Boone, an offensive lineman from Ohio State, and Stanford defensive end Pannel Egboh. Those players are restricted because NFL rules that state players are ineligible to join their respective teams until its school's graduation ceremonies.
The 49ers will practice once a day through Thursday. The 49ers other organized team activities will be June 1-2, June 8-11 and June 15-16. The team has a mandatory full-squad minicamp on June 5-7.
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Arnaz Battle was the team's top wide receiver and leader in receptions among wideouts in both 2006 and 2007. But he finds himself in a battle for playing time and a roster spot in the final year of his contract this year.
The 49ers added two receivers in the offseason. Veteran Brandon Jones signed a $15 million contract despite the fact he was never a full-time starter with the Tennessee Titans. Jones plays the slot, where Battle excels.
There are those with the 49ers who believe Battle is a better option than Jones, but because of Jones' contract, the club has to get him on the field. Also, the 49ers selected Michael Crabtree with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft.
The 49ers – who in recent seasons featured arguably the NFL's worst receiver corps – now have a deep group of wide receivers. Veteran Isaac Bruce returns as the teams' leading pass-catcher from a year ago. Crabtree and promising Josh Morgan line up at split end.
The team also has Jones, Battle, Jason Hill and Dominique Zeigler, the latter two youngsters who both showed promise and production last season when given an opportunity.
Coffee will go well with meat-and-potatoes O
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