Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports


Mr. Fix It - Part 3: Special Teams and Coaching

Sep 1, 2015 at 11:20 PM5


As preseason progresses towards a close, we are getting glimpses of what the 49ers will look like in the 2015 NFL season. It is clear that this team is much different than in years past - not only from a roster standpoint but also a coaching standpoint. In this final preseason edition of Mr. Fix It, I will be breaking down special teams and coaching to see where the Niners can get a leg up on the competition this year.

Let's start by looking at special teams:

Lean on Phil Dawson's leg:
By all accounts, points may be harder to come by this year. When the 49ers have a chance to get points, they should take them. Although he is 40 years old, Phil Dawson is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history and can still be relied on to make pressure packed kicks. He has proven himself to be a valuable commodity in the playoffs as well.

With the patchwork on the offensive line, it is quite possible that the offense may stall when they get into scoring territory. There will be situations early on in the season and generally early in games that Jim Tomsula may think about passing up 3 points to go for it on 4th down. Tomsula shouldn't hesitate to send Dawson out there if this happens. It bodes well for a team to score early and often since, you know, the object of the game is to score more than the other guys.

The Niners won't be blowing many teams out this year and I fully expect wins to be hard fought. Having a kicker with ice in his veins will go a long way when the team needs a 43 yard field goal on the road to win a game.

Take advantage of Bradley Pinion's talent
Rookie punter Bradley Pinion had only 2 touchbacks on 75 punts in 2014 with Clemson, while dropping 28 punts inside the 20. It's clear that the kid knows how to boom it (and finesse it) judging by his preseason performance.

There may be situations where the offense is facing 4th and short from midfield in a close game and will have a choice of going for it or punting. The Niners need to trust Pinion the way they trusted Andy Lee to pin the opposition deep in their own territory. It's clear that Pinion has the ability, so he becomes a weapon that can be used to gain an edge.

Pinion is also a kickoff specialist. Sometimes it's just better to not let the other team return a kick, especially when the 49ers have had trouble staying healthy over the past couple of years. Touchbacks mean they won't have to make a tackle on the returner or fight through blocks, which in turn means less chances for injuries on kickoffs.

Get on the Hayne Plane
Jarryd Hayne has been very impressive in his first bit of NFL action. He's already the team's best punt returner and is able to make defenders miss with relative ease. Being a rugby player will come in handy when catching a punt in traffic and trying to create space with defenders all around. The biggest thing is that teams don't have film on Hayne (aside from the 5 punts he has fielded so far in the preseason), so they don't know his tendencies. The 49ers should definitely take advantage of this because Hayne could be one of the biggest surprises of the year.

Now let's talk about the coaching staff. We know that they have a monumental task ahead of them, but the cupboard is not bare and there is still talent with which to create mismatches.

Know how to manage the game
If there was one thing that I thought Jim Harbaugh needed to do better, it was knowing how to better manage the game. There were times that he failed to recognize the situation and make the correct call. In 2012, against the Rams in St. Louis, Harbaugh and Roman insisted on calling passing plays when the 49ers offense was pinned deep in their own territory. The result was a safety in a game that the Rams ended up winning by a field goal. Fast forward to 2013 in Seattle and the Niners were in the same situation. It was a close game in the first half and they called a passing play from their own 1 yard line. The result was a Bruce Miller holding call in the end zone and a safety. The smart call both times would have been to play it safe and get as many yards as possible to get some punting room. Jim Tomsula's 49ers need to learn from their mistakes and recognize when it's best to just take their medicine and play it safe.

Part in parcel of a good gameplan is avoiding the other team's strength. Yes, this means it's NOT a good idea to keep throwing at Richard Sherman. Let's move on.

Managing the game also means having a purpose for every drive. Too many times, the 49ers would get pass happy under Roman/Harbaugh and would end up either losing yards on a drive or going 3 and out. A drive can be successful even if it means that it changes field position by stringing together a few plays or running a little bit of clock. If the offense is in a tough spot, it's best to just take what the defense is giving them and live for another drive instead of trying to go for it all and risk making that crucial mistake.

Another big part of managing the game is realizing when guys are tired. The team was run into the ground from 2011-2014, which is a big factor in all of the injuries the team suffered. I recommend substituting early and often in order to keep guys fresh. This is still a deep team and there's no reason to leave guys like Jarryd Hayne, Bruce Ellington and Quinton Dial on the bench when they could be contributing. Substituting heavily could also come in handy when figuring out which offensive line combination yields the best results.

Attack their weakness
It goes without saying that a team is only as strong as their weakest link. Every team has a weakness and it's the job of the coaches to recognize it and exploit it. This wasn't done nearly enough in the past 4 years, and one example that I vividly remember is the game at New Orleans last year.

Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis was playing on a bad knee and hobbling around everywhere. It was clear that he was hurting and the 49ers didn't bother to attack him at all. Although the Niners won the game, they definitely left some plays on the field as they stayed away from Lewis.

If the blitz is working, Eric Mangini should stick with it. If the read option is working, Geep Chryst should stick with it. NFL teams are good, but it takes a lot to make a mid-game adjustment, especially when a guy is hurt. The Niners need to spot this right away and take advantage of it.

Stay with what works
This goes with the above point about recognizing a weakness and exploiting it. Once a weakness has been found, keep going after it!

Greg Roman used to outsmart himself on a consistent basis. The offense would be moving the ball, be it by running or short passes, and he would all of a sudden change the play calls to something totally different. The Rams game at Levis Stadium last year comes to mind. Frank Gore was having major success on counter plays because the Rams defensive front was over-pursuing. For some unknown reason, Colin Kaepernick was then asked to continually drop back to throw the ball for the rest of the game and ended up taking 9 sacks. The 49ers never really got anything going and ended up losing that game on the goal line.

The current roster poses major matchup problems for opponents, specifically at the running back and outside linebacker positions. Chances are that the 49ers will be able to generate a significant pass rush with Ahmad Brooks, Aaron Lynch and Eli Harold. Continually sending those three after the quarterback - as opposed to dropping them into coverage - will assure that they are playing to their strengths as well. Running back Reggie Bush is a matchup nightmare out of the backfield, and it seems as if running backs will be targeted more. If it works, it could be an important safety valve for Kaepernick when he's under siege.

I understand that the odds are stacked against the 49ers. I have heard all of the rhetoric about how bad the 49ers will supposedly be this year. On any given Sunday, any team can rise up and win. It will be the job of the coaches to make sure that the Niners are ready to rise up as many Sundays as possible. Worse teams have gone on to be successful and as the great John Madden used to say: That's why you play the game.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


5 Comments

  • Bill
    "That's why you play the game" isn't that Chris Berman?
    Sep 2, 2015 at 8:19 PM
    0
  • james may
    totally agree
    Sep 2, 2015 at 9:35 AM
    0
  • mbniner
    How about the Super Bowl? Ngata is out of the game injured. Gore just ripped off a 40 yard run and the Ravens were gassed. Then 3 straight pass plays? Pitiful.
    Sep 2, 2015 at 9:11 AM
    0
  • 4tfn9rzs
    Well-thought out article, completely agree with all points. Hope some of the coaches read this...
    Sep 2, 2015 at 8:08 AM
    0
  • 666sf666sf
    Good stuff. I completely agree...
    Sep 2, 2015 at 12:03 AM
    0

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers QB Trey Lance assesses his first extended NFL regular season action as 'good and bad'

By Kirk Larrabee
Oct 3

The results were mixed for 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance after being unexpectedly called upon to play the entire second half during a 28-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Lance was inserted into the game to start the second half after it became apparent during halftime that starter Jimmy Garoppolo wouldn't be able to take the field due to an assumed calf injury he sustained early in the game. Lance finished the game with 157 yards and two touchdowns on 9-of-18 passing while rushing for 41 yards on seven carries, but was unable to dig the 49ers out of the hole they found themselves in after the Seahawks scored two quick touchdowns early in the second half. The appearance marked the first extended action of the regular season for Lance, who had



Fred Warner, Nick Bosa have confidence in team's mentality and approach after tough loss

By Kirk Larrabee
Oct 3

Sunday's 28-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks felt like somewhat of a demoralizing one for the San Francisco 49ers, but two of the team's defensive standouts -- defensive end Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner --expect to see their teammates carry a positive mentality forward as the challenges in their schedule continue. The 49ers were in control of the game for most of the first half but the Seahawks managed to lock themselves in a 7-7 tie with the 49ers at halftime. The Seahawks then took control in the second half, building a 28-13 lead before holding on late to come out of Levi's Stadium with a win. The loss was the second consecutive home defeat for the 49ers, who now sit at 2-2 on the season after a last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers last



Who were PFF's highest- and lowest-graded 49ers players vs. the Seahawks?

By David Bonilla
Oct 4

The San Francisco 49ers fell to 2-2 after suffering their second consecutive loss of the season, a 28-21 defeat at home against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4. Today, Pro Football Focus released its grades from the game. Which Niners played well, and who has more work to do? Below are Pro Football Focus' five highest-graded 49ers players on offense against the Seahawks. Ross Dwelley, TE, 92.9, 8 snaps Deebo Samuel, WR, 82.7, 68 snaps Trent Williams, LT, 80.8, 54 snaps Mike McGlinchey, RT, 75.6, 76 snaps Jauan Jennings, WR, 73.7, 8 snaps Below are the five highest-graded 49ers players on defense. Nick Bosa, DE, 85.8, 39 snaps Maurice Hurst, DT, 79.3, 20



49ers practice and media schedule leading to Week 5 matchup vs. Cardinals

By Site Staff
Oct 5

The San Francisco 49ers will hold three full practices this week as the team prepares for its Week 5 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Kyle Shanahan, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, and various players are scheduled to speak with the media. The 49ers will make the press conferences available at 49ers.com, on the team's official mobile app, and YouTube page. Below is the schedule, which is subject to change, for the upcoming


Featured

More by Zain Naqvi

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone