49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 19, 2011
Harbaugh "sticking to his guns" with offensive approach

On paper, the 49ers should be a terrific running team. Three of their five offensive linemen are first-round draft picks and the other two are a second rounder and a high-priced free agent. They have one of the best blocking tight ends in the league in Vernon Davis and fellow tight end Delanie Walker has improved markedly in that area.

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They also have a running back, Frank Gore, who once ran for 1,695 yards in a season and who excels at rooting out positive yards even when there is little room. Center Jonathan Goodwin said the team's goal is to average four yards a carry even when defenses are stacking the line of scrimmage specifically to stop the run.

The 49ers aren't coming close to that goal. After two games, they rank 10th in the league in rushing attempts -- the Rams and Giants obviously have yet to play their second game -- but are tied for 29th in the NFL with a 2.8 yards-per-carry average.

Jim Harbaugh is looking for solutions. He said more than once today that the 49ers are still searching for an offensive identity. Pressed on what he's like that identity to be, he said, ""We want to be a running team. We want to be a throwing team. We want to be darn near 50/50, and equally good in both. ... These guys are just getting to know me. We're getting to know them. We are still in the process of forming that identity." Through two games, the 49ers have attempted 44 passes and run the ball 56 times.

In that way, Harbaugh sounds a lot like ex-offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye when he came on board in 2009. "We would like to determine what our best facet is," Raye said of the offense that year "We'd like to have a balance ... "

Harbaugh's plan this year has been to lean on the running game while the passing game finds its footing. After two games, however, Harbaugh likely was hoping to see more from the running attack than he has so far. Still, it doesn't seem as if he's going to switch courses after two contests.

"We're in the process of finding our identity," Harbaugh said. "It hasn't clicked on all cylinders. We're going to stick to our guns. I feel we're on track."

Odds & Ends

* Braylon Edwards suffered the most severe injury for the 49ers on Sunday. How severe? Edwards is having an MRI today on his knee that should reveal how much time he'll miss. Harbaugh sidestepped a question as to whether the team will have to add another wideout. He noted that Kyle Williams took advantage of the extra snaps Edwards' injury created.

Edwards evidently was hurt on his only reception of the game, a 21-yarder on the 49ers' first possession. What happened, however, isn't obvious. Edwards popped to his feet after the play as if nothing was wrong.

* Fullback Moran Norris was walking around today with his foot in an orthopedic boot. He said he was "ok" and didn't reveal the injury.

* Tight end Vernon Davis had two catches for 18 yards Sunday and was miffed that he was involved in pass protection as much as he was. Said Harbaugh: "There's frustration on Vernon's part for sure. He was doubled much of the ballgame. We're finding that role, creating that identity for Vernon in the passing game."

* Harbaugh indicated that cornerback Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) and safety Dashon Goldson (knee) could return to the starting lineup this week to help out a defensive secondary that allowed 432 passing yards and three touchdowns on Sunday.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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