Camp chat: Jimmy Raye

With the exhibition season opener against the Denver Broncos looming Friday, 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye covers the spectrum and gives his takes on a wide variety of topics concerning the San Francisco offense and its progress during training camp.

On whether he has decided on a starting quarterback for Friday's preseason game:
"You know, I knew you were going to ask that. I knew somebody was. No, we haven't. As we conclude today's work, because this is a normal training camp day for us, we'll start on Thursday thinking about getting ready for Friday and playing Denver. We will meet on that and whatever decision we make after that meeting you will be the first to know."

On how he evaluates every position:
"I think each position is different. I really evaluate each position differently. Some guys we don't need to see play. And some guys, from a physical stand point, medically may not be cleared to play. So it will be by position. And I'm sure everybody is interested in the quarterback position but we will make that decision as we go forward. Whoever it is (on Friday), I don't think it will be any indication of who it is going forward, but we will make that decision after this meeting."

On how much playing time RB Glen Coffee will get Friday:
"I think he will get a fair amount of reps. I'm interested in seeing Thomas Clayton and the young running back from Purdue, Kory Sheets. I would like to see them all, and hopefully the game will be as such that we can get a good look at all of them. I'd like to see Glen play. He had good OTA sessions. He's had a good training camp, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he does out there."

On what he's seen from Glen Coffee:
"Glen is making good progress. I thought, leaving OTAs before we broke for the summer, there were some flashes of some things that he was doing very well, learning the system, the biggest transition for most running backs is the pass protection part of it because most of them are never really asked to do that. They are handed the ball most of the time, so we were waiting for the start of the padded sessions, to see where he was in that phase of it. Today, his progress has been good. He's done a good job. He has a natural ability to bend his knees and strike so I think he'll be fine in that direction. So, overall the snap counts and the reps that he has gotten have been very good.

On whether he sees Frank Gore and Glen Coffee playing in the backfield in tandem:
"At this point I don't. You mean together? At this point I don't. I see them as a tandem, working together. I think it is very difficult for one guy to go 16, 18, 20 weeks and carry the load. For now, the way he has progressed, and I preface that with if he continues at the pace that he has been, that we could get some relief for Frank in our running game and our passing game, with him playing in it. I don't see them in the foreseeable future as playing together, in a tandem backfield."

On Coffee as a receiver:
"He's done a good job. He catches the ball well. I don't see him and wouldn't anticipate using him as an extended guy out of the backfield, to throw the ball to and create mismatches. But, what he has done in the role that we asked of him, you have to be mindful of the fact that he's still two months out of Alabama and we are trying to make sure that we situate the things that he can do well. And carrying the ball well is his biggest asset and that is what we intend to focus on going forward."

On whether Coffee is playing bigger than he is:
"He looks pretty good to me. He's a very rugged guy. He's a very determined, inside, slashing runner, the way he was in college. His adaptability to that run style in the NFL, it seems to be that he would do well because of his physicality. He is very tough-minded, so the body-type, don't be misled by the body-type because he's a very tough-minded guy and he's a physical, punishing guy with the ability to make you miss which is a good combination."

On whether the starting quarterback will switch between the first two preseason games:
"Not at this point. One could conclude that, but we have not made that decision. We will talk about who will go out there when we start the game, then the next week we will approach it the same. Hopefully after that we will have some indication of where we are headed."

On how much input he has in naming a starting quarterback:
"I think it will be a mutual consent. I think he will weigh what I say pretty heavily because I am the one who has looked at it the most and I know what we are looking for in terms of the overall aspect of the play of the position. So I think what I say will be weighed in there at some place, hopefully on the heavy side."

On how close the offense is to becoming exactly what he wants:
"The vision is clear. You have to remember we are in a training camp environment. So as you install and start to build the blocks going forward, there are minor setbacks in personnel with injuries and guys missing practice, guys not being available for personal reasons or contract reasons. Going forward, you have to temper that with where you are in the evaluation process. Then Friday night will be a real evaluation because it will be the first time they are live and hitting. The temperament of guys will change and their personality. You will see what their game-day personality is like and you will see how they function in competition. So the evaluation, the training camp evaluation, will be on-going. Then we will get another look at that Tuesday and Wednesday up in Napa. The process and the vision will hopefully all culminate and come together by the time we are ready to kick it for the championship run in the 16-game schedule."

On which wide receiver position Michael Spurlock is most comfortable in:
"The movement one. The position that motions. The Z-position as we would refer to it as, or the flanker. He is a guy that can play numerous positions, and that position shifts and motions and moves. So you have to find out where he is in the alignment and how to account for him because of his ability to run reverses and arounds and throw the ball and catch the ball and be in the backfield possibly as a quarterback. So it is the flanker position as you would know it. We call it the Z."

On how he plans to use the tight ends this year:
"In Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker and Joe Jon Finley, those players at that position, if the vision you asked me about earlier goes in full cycle, that is a very valuable position in our offense. The opportunity for success there is very high and the use of that position is maximized. The fact the he (Davis) brings so many exceptional skills in teams of blocking and running and catching and speed, it just enhances our ability to use him and use that position."

On what he hopes to see from the offense in the first preseason game:
"Right now, I'm hoping that all of the work that they put in from the beginning of the installation of this through the offseason programs and the OTAs and the training camp, I'm hoping to see that they gain some measure of success or have some success in executing what they've been doing in the training camp periods and the then the game. And that way they can build on it and go forward and then they'll feel like their energy and the work that they put in will be justified."

On whether Micheal Spurlock would be cut if he played just one position:
"I don't think so. I think evaluation process, and maybe I see it differently, I think the evaluation process at that position is wide open. The production, it's not like he's a first-year guy, he's a guy who's played football in the National Football League. He's very much in the mix as a wide receiver. The fact that the can bring some added dimensions in terms of the kicking game as a returner and in the Taser package, and he has some other things. It's kind of like, the more you can do, the higher your chances are."

On what he's seen from Arnaz Battle:
"I like what I've seen of him. I think they're totally different players. Micheal is a sudden, quick, initial quickness type of guy. Arnaz Battle is a bigger, stronger, more physical receiver, probably in the line of his true qualities are as a receiver from the transformation that he's made from college to being a receiver. He's played it longer. I see them differently. They have some similar traits, but they are very dissimilar in their physical abilities."

On the area of offense that needs the most work:
"I don't think you can evaluate that until you actually, until they actually, physically play football against the guy down the street. It's kind of like fighting your brother, and you do pretty well at that and then you have to go to school the first day and then there's another guy walking down the street who knocks your hat off and you've got to fight another guy. All of the things that you have to evaluate, the process eventually comes down to really playing football. And we haven't, as yet, done that. So, I don't know that there's something, right now, glaring that I say, ‘This has got to be fixed before we go,' because, right now, most of what we've done has been OK. And now, once the real football starts, and there are live contact situations Friday night, then there may be something – even though there will be a limited deal on our part – it may be something that rears its head and we say, ‘Oh boy. There's a void here,' or, ‘There's a need for this to be fixed.'"

On the reports concerning Michael Crabtree's possibly missing the first regular season game:
"You are surely asking the wrong guy. I wouldn't have any idea on any reports [about] Michael Crabtree or any updates on him. Obviously, he's missing an opportunity to join his teammates [to] bond and learn what we are doing and help us going into a championship season, if in fact he is the player that we think he is. If and when he does become a part of it we'll have to accelerate the process to try to get him familiar with the quarterback and the system. It's a detriment at this point but like I said earlier, we'll embrace him when he comes. It's the business side of it that we really don't have control over and we'll embrace him when he comes. It's not him; it's the business that he's involved in. He needs to get that fixed and when he does get that fixed and then we'll try to fix him. Hopefully that will help us and then we'll go forward."

On his impressions of Isaac Bruce so far:
"He's a true professional guy. He comes to work and hasn't asked me one day, and I talked to him prior to the time that we started, for any quarter since he's been here. He's put on his pads and come out and gone to work. He tried to make a difference during the time that he missed during the offseason training program, and his progress has been good. He has great initial quickness, the ability to drop his weight, change direction, great hand-eye coordination, obviously. He's probably, I don't know this for a fact, but he would probably be the leading active receiver still playing, the all-time receptions leader still playing. So, he has shown me nothing to deter what I thought about him prior to coming here. It's just the fact that I've seen more of him than I did in the previous six months."

On how zone blocking would help Frank Gore this season:
"I think any blocking benefits the back. I wouldn't necessarily say zone blocking would be a benefit because we have three or four different blocking schemes because we zone block. We trap and wrap. We have a trap screen, we have a draw scheme. We have inside and outside zone schemes. Anytime you have big people that can create movement on the front, going forward, with a back of his ability and vision, I think it's a plus-plus, a win for him."

On whether what he's seen out of Frank Gore so far is what he expected from him:
"I don't have anything to measure this against because I haven't seen, I've been on the practice field, not in a game or a season situation with him, but he has been one of the best workers in preparation, since we started this training camp. I think he has the eye of the tiger this year. From what I've seen, his work ethic has been outstanding and he's looking forward to a good year and we are looking forward to him having one."

On how he rates Gore:
"I don't think that would be fair. I've had some Hall of Fame guys. I've been fortunate enough to have some Hall of Fame guys. I've had Pro Bowl guys. I've been fortunate enough to coach, arguably, the best running backs to ever play in this game. I think, from what I've seen of him, the competition and the journey is just starting. But, what I've seen of him, he has all the criteria, all the prerequisites, to be a top guy. Some of that, obviously, has to do with the line some of the other guys had. Some of it has to do with the quarterback and line that the other guys have, but he has it, talent-wise, and he has the passion to be a top-level guy, be in the upper echelon of backs that have played in the NFL."

On how he envisions Vernon Davis fitting into his offense:
"The way we play offensively and I said this early on in a couple of previous talks with you all. The way we play offensively has always been tight end friendly and the places that I've been, the tight end is a pretty integral part of what we do. I think with his speed and athleticism, his ability to in-line block and the fact that he can block a defensive end in the league, which is unusual for a tight end and have the combination of the ability to go downfield and matchup and catch the ball, I see him being a very good fit."

On how important the downfield, chunk play is in setting up a power running game:
"Extremely important. That is the whole – that is part of the design. The closer they creep closer to the line of scrimmage to be able to stop the run or create a seven- or eight-man box, to get an extra hat in the front to stop the run, then, obviously, it opens up big avenues in the play-action game or the run-action game as we call it and give us the opportunity to throw the chunk plays down the field."

On whether Shaun Hill needs to work on the chunk plays downfield:
"No, I think Shaun's doing fine. I think Shaun and Alex both have done very well in that part of it. We have several opportunities in our practices, and you've got to remember now, we're not tackling, so it's more difficult when you're in a tempo-setting practice to be able to get people open the way we will when we're really running the ball well. But, I think his development has been really good, as well as Alex, in terms of throwing the shots down the field. I don't think that will be a problem at all."


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