Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Improve the 49ers Offense

Let me start by apologizing for the length between posts.  The Holiday season and end of the year push in business has left very little time for updates.

The 49ers offense has been very up and down, from week to week, and even series to series all season long.  This is not something that just came about when they made the switch at quarterback to Colin Kaepernick, it was already occurring.

For starters, the 49er offense is at it's best when operating out of 22 personnel, 2 tight ends and 2 running backs.  This is generally perceived as a heavy running formation, however the 49ers have 2 extremely versatile tight ends that can end up out wide and still put pressure on the defensive secondary.

The reason this personnel works so well is that it forces the defense to pick it's poison.  If they bring 8 in the box it opens up the passing game, and if they decide to stay with 7, the 49ers now have the numbers in the running game.

Prime examples of the effectiveness of this grouping can be found when watching the first game against this weekends opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.  In that matchup Arizona decided they wanted to match their defense to the 49ers package, and when the 49ers went into their 22, the Cardinals countered by taking off one of their cornerbacks and replacing him with an additional lineman, giving them a 4-4 alignment.

The 49ers used this to their advantage by going over the top in play action, and hitting on 18-19 passes.

You saw it again a few weeks later against the Chicago Bears.  22 Personnel, play action, shot plays over the top of the defense.  The threat of the run forces the defense to key on it, thus providing additional protection for the quarterback to sit in the pocket and let the downfield throws develop.

In recent weeks the 49ers have gotten away from this identity, moving to more and more plays being run from the Pistol formation.  This can be an effective package, and at times it has been very good.  From what I have seen, they should be using this more as a compliment than a base.

Another thing to notice with the Pistol, is the tempo of the offense.  Most teams that run the Pistol/Read Option stuff do so at a much quicker pace than what we see from the 49ers.  I would like to see them speed it up, almost going no huddle when moving to this package.  This can be done for a complete series, or simply for a few set play groupings within a possession.

By mixing up not only the personnel grouping, but also the tempo you are putting additional stress on the defense making it harder to key on what you are doing and also knowing if you have time to substitute.

While many are seeing the loss of Mario Manningham as a negative, it may end up being a positive in the long run.  Let me explain.  The 49ers are now down to only Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss as their top wide receiver options, they have yet to throw a pass to AJ Jenkins and Ted Ginn Jr has been a waste of roster space.

Now is the perfect time to get back to basics.  Get back to running out of 22 personnel, mix in Moss in 12 personnel, (1 running back, 2 tight end set) and let your Pro Bowl offensive line set the tempo.  It is a formula that took them to the brink of the Super Bowl a year ago.

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