49ers Blog and Q&A

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

August 17, 2012
Starting lineup vs. Texans? It truly doesn't matter


Who's starting Saturday's game against the Texans? Who cares?

"I'll go as far to say as whoever's name is on the list as having started the game accounts for nothing," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said this week. "It means nothing. ... The No. 1, No. 2 starter, non-starter -- if a guy is playing, that's all that matters to me."

Indeed, San Francisco's starting offensive lineup last week against Minnesota had little correlation to playing time. Kendall Hunter started at tailback, but on second down Rock Cartwright was in. Two plays after that, it was Brandon Jacobs.

The question is whether those ever-shuffling personnel packages will continue into the regular season. Coach Jim Harbaugh has been vague (imagine that!) on the subject, saying that it's possible the rotations will continue and that the 49ers are still trying to pinpoint their most effective combinations.

Alex Smith might be throwing a pass to any of six wideouts in Saturday's game. The 49ers list Michael Crabtree a starter at one spot. At the other, the team lists either "Ted Ginn Jr. -- or -- Randy Moss -- or -- Mario Manningham." Crabtree and Ginn started the game against Minnesota. But by the end of the opening drive, Kyle Williams and Brett Swain were in.

Harbaugh said it shouldn't be hard to adjust to ever-changing targets. After all, that's what Smith has had to do since practices began in the spring. "I don't think it's any more than most teams," he said. "You have your four (receivers) coming in, your five coming in, sometimes six. You've got tight ends, you've got receivers that are running backs coming out of the backfield. I think it's something you just practice. You train. I don't think it's too different from any other team."

As for my two cents, I agree with Harbaugh and Roman -- it doesn't matter who starts the preseason games at wideout and running back because there's probably a healthy amount of subterfuge going on anyway. Harbaugh will want to keep the lid on his true intentions for as long as possible, and having an array of personnel packages -- especially in the first quarter -- achieves that until the regular season begins.

After attending every practice this spring and summer, I can say that the wideout rotations mimic the Week 1 preseason game in that there are varying combinations of receivers and running backs on any given play. Then again, the last practice that was open to the me and my fellow media members was yesterday. That gives Harbaugh, et alia three weeks to settle on a more permanent combination

Perrish Cox said he learned two weeks ago that the league would not suspend him in relation to the criminal case he was involved in two years ago in Denver. Cox was found not guilty of sexual assault in March, and the 49ers signed him soon thereafter.

"I can really just focus on football," he said. "That was my main focus anyway. I was going to accept what the league was doing anyway. That was really my whole thought process - there was nothing I could do about it."

Cox injured his hamstring this week and will be held out of today's tomorrow's game.

I've saved the biggest news for last: Mario Manningham still was wearing No. 14 today even though No. 82, which he wore with the New York Giants, became available with Nate Byham's release. I will be updating you as soon as possible on this still-evolving story.

-- Matt 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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