In the days following the 49ers 13-6 win over the Seahawks there has been a lot of discussion regarding Vernon Davis not getting targeted with a pass. The popular belief is that Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is not calling plays to get the ball to Davis and thus they are not utilizing him properly.
I wholeheartedly disagree with this assumption. Davis is a very dynamic weapon due to his versatility as both a receiver and blocker. He is such a weapon that sometimes opposing teams will focus so much on him that it opens up other options to make the play. As you will see below Roman attempted to use Davis in each of those roles.
Davis is open but the Ball Goes Elsewhere
- Above is the 1st down play on their 2nd possession of the game. It is a play action with Smith rolling to his left. As you can see Smith has Davis (white) open with no defenders within 10 yards of him. This is a big play opportunity if you get him the ball. Smith does not, and instead ends up running back to his right at throwing the ball away for an incompletion.
- Above is their first play of the 2nd half. Davis (white arrow) lined up as the wide receiver on the right side and ran a streak. As you can see, he has a step on the corner and the safety is moving away to the middle of the field. He is open for a shot down the field. Smith does not go to him, instead electing to go to Gore underneath for a nice completion and 1st down.
- Above is later in that same drive. Davis (white) is open on a stick route, however Smith checks down to Gore for the completion and another nice gain.
Roman Utilizing Davis To Open Up The Offense In Other Ways
- Above is the 1st down play from their first trip into the Red Zone. Smith has Davis (Red) underneath on a deep drag with Crabtree (White) running a post over the top. Both the linebacker and Safety go with Davis leaving Crabtree wide open in the middle of the field. As you will see later, Smith's poor mechanics in the pocket don't allow him to see the coverage develop and he misses a touchdown opportunity, instead taking a sack.
- Again, versatility is the strength of Davis' game. On this play from their TD drive to open the 2nd half, Roman has Davis (white arrow) in to block. After the play action fake Smith hits Hunter for a 1st down.
- Another one from the TD drive. Davis (yellow) runs a dig over the middle, taking the MLB with him. Although he appears to be open Smith checks down to Gore who has 10 yards between him and the first defender.
- Again on the TD drive. This time of 3rd down, Davis (white) is sent on a corner route designed to "Rub" the safety. This opens up space underneath for Crabtree (yellow) to not only make the catch but pick up the first down as well.
- And here they finish off the drive with a TD completion to Delanie Walker (yellow). Again Davis plays a key role in the play by first opening up the area for Walker to make the catch, and then turning and blocking the defender to allow Walker to get into the endzone for the score.
As you can see from the clips above, although Davis was not targeted with a pass during the game, Roman did an excellent job of getting him open on some routes in which the ball was not delivered to him, and also to help open up plays for other members of the offense.
Alex Smith's Mechanical Issues
Alex Smith has really struggled over the last 2 weeks leading to 4 interceptions, 1 short of his total from the entire 2011 season. While watching the film I noticed 3 key problems, his mechanics during his drop, his set up in the pocket, and his overall pocket presence. Let's take a look:
- The play above is the same 1st down play on their first Red Zone trip of the game shown in the previous section, but from the end zone view. Smith has a tendency to fade during his drop instead of going straight back. This causes him to miss the pocket and set up almost over the left tackle.
- As you can see above, the fade has pushed him outside the hash, and although the line has created a nice pocket he is not inside of it, and although he is in a good throwing position his view downfield is obscured, and he gets the appearance of pressure. As you will see below this causes his mechanics to really break down.
- If he had been in the pocket and able to step up you can see the throwing lane on the post to Crabtree in the end zone. His poor drop has created disruption for the timing of the play. It is further complicated by him opening up his throwing shoulder. As you can see above, his left shoulder (target shoulder) is parallel to the LOS and he is not in any type of position to throw the ball which is at his waist.
- Due to his poor drop, poor set up with his target shoulder and footwork the pass is out of the question and he is trying to scramble and ends up taking a sack.
- Now let's take a look at the interception in the Red Zone. As you can see above, Smith has completed his drop, and Moss (white) is open along the back of the end zone. Look at Smith's body position though, again his target shoulder is parallel to the LOS. There is no way that he can deliver the ball to any of the receivers with velocity from this position.
- Here is the end zone view at the same point. What is troubling here is that Smith has a great pocket to work from, however look at his body position. There is no way that he can make a throw. Instead of having his target shoulder downfield it is pointing toward the sideline and he is moving in the pocket for no reason. Poor pocket presence.
- Now both defensive linemen on the left side are on the ground, yet Smith is still in no position to throw the ball, and you can see Moss coming into the picture. Smith eventually flees from a good pocket and throws late to Moss for an interception.
These mechanical flaws that Smith has are a big concern as the team moves forward. With the long week between games, followed by the bye week, hopefully the coaches and Smith can work on getting this cleaned up for the second half of the season.