Alex Smith has hit another gear in his second year in Greg Roman’s offense with the 49ers.
He’s been described as an “expert” and a “master” of the system by his teammates and coaches this year and for good reason. His quick decision-making has helped lead the 49ers on six touchdown drives this season while the offense still hasn’t turned the ball over.
As he watches Smith play from his spot in the coaches’ booth above the field, Roman says he notices an improved player under center.
“Yeah, there’s no question,” Roman said. “We fully expect him to be, and always have, just to continue his progress of running our offense. He’s just gotten better incrementally in everything we ask him to do. That’s what we expect from all our players, is just constant improvement. The more you do something, the better you should get at it. That’s not how it always plays out. And that’s what makes special players special is that they’re continuing to get better as they go.”
It appears Smith is subscribing to Jim Harbaugh’s mantra of getting one mile an hour faster every day.
When naming impact players on the Minnesota defense, Roman nearly listed half of the team’s starting unit. Players like defensive tackle Kevin Williams, linebacker Chad Greenway and cornerback Antoine Winfield certainly command attention, but All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen is the marquee player of note.
Left tackle Joe Staley rebounded from a tough day against Clay Matthews in the season opener to help pace a mauling effort from the 49ers in Week 2 against Detroit. On Sunday, he will be the main man responsible for trying to slow down Allen, who led the league 22 sacks last year.
“Joe played a really good game, really good game,” Roman said. “We just look forward to that kind of improvement, really from all of our players as the season goes on. I think Joe experienced that last year throughout the season, just got better as it went. We certainly expect that out of all our players.”
As talented as the Vikings defense is, it’s hard to mimic the 49ers offense in practice throughout the week. Roman has become one of the league’s most creative coordinators when it comes to using multiple personnel packages throughout the game.
Among Roman’s options on offense includes using second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The mobile, athletic signal-caller played a big role in David Akers’ 63-yard field goal in Week 1, as Kaepernick ran for a 17-yard gain to set up the historic kick.
While Kaepernick didn’t see any action against Detroit on Sunday night, just the threat of his athletic ability gives opposing team’s something to think about it.
“I think it’s pretty unique because, I know you guys see it too, when he runs he’s covering some ground now,” Roman said. “I mean, he’s not taking little typewriter steps. He is covering some ground, those stride lengths. When he builds that speed up, he gets rolling.”
Not only does Roman’s philosophy lead to contributions from a bevy of his players, but it also keeps defenses off-balance and forces them to prepare for more looks. It’s a method that Roman and Harbaugh developed during their stint together at Stanford and have since brought to the 49ers.
“It definitely creates a lot more for the defense to prepare for, not only in what you might do out of that personnel group, but the individual skill set of each guy,” Roman said. “I’d say it comes from Jim’s idea or just his mindset that if a guy can do something really well and he works hard at it day-in and day-out, he’s going to get an opportunity to do it on game day. It’s a self-perpetuating philosophy.”
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