For the upcoming 2009 NFL season, Mike Singletary has stated that the 49ers must be able to impose their will against opponents. In short, they must be able to run the ball effectively, anytime of their choosing.
Singletary and the 49ers appear to have backed up this statement by signing former all-pro free agent tackle Marvell Smith (Pittsburgh) and by resigning blocking fullback Moran Norris.
They have also drafted a big blocking tight end, Bear Pascoe (sixth round, Fresno State) and have added a new running back to their stable, Glen Coffee (third round, Alabama). Coffee has the reputation as a bruising, "knock 'em down" type of running back. Add a healthy Frank Gore to the mix and an effective running game would appear to be the result.
There is no question that a strong offensive line and a tough physical running game can wear down an opponent, move the chains, and grind out the clock. At first glance, that would appear to be a recipe for offensive success all on its own but, unfortunately, it is not. To effectively challenge for the NFC West title in 2009, the 49ers will need another component of their running game to step up big time next season: the all-important run after the catch.
While a three to four yard run may have the effect of wearing down an opponent, a long run after the catch for a TD has the ability to break an opponents psychological will. It is a potential game breaker.
In tight end Vernon Davis, wide receivers Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, and now Michael Crabtree, the 49ers would appear to have the talent to turn short catches into big gains. One can only hope that new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye remembers the great John Taylor of the 49ers of old and his ability to turn a five yard slant pass into a 90 yard game changing touchdown.
It is an ingredient that has been missing in the 49ers offensive attack for some time. It should be something that the 49ers work on again in the upcoming summer camp—running hard and fast after the catch with solid down field blocking to turn short catches into great, game changing plays.