San Francisco 49ers: 4 Ways Jim Harbaugh Can Boost the Team's Offensive Output

Ted JohnsonAnalyst INovember 30, 2011

San Francisco 49ers: 4 Ways Jim Harbaugh Can Boost the Team's Offensive Output

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    Now that it has been revealed that Braylon Edwards (No. 17) has a sore shoulder, an injury suffered against Washington, we know one way coach Jim Harbaugh can get more offensive production out of his team.

    A visit to Lourdes.

    Returning Edwards, Joshua Morgan and Bruce Miller to 100-percent health would do much for Harbaugh’s play-calling. Of course, Morgan’s out for the year with a broken leg. Edwards either will have to play through the pain or sit a game or two to rest his shoulder. Miller appears ready to return from the effects of a concussion.

    By Week 12, there are no secrets in the NFL. Everyone knows that the Niners defense is first-rate, and everyone knows that a team that ranks 31st in pass attempts, 29th in passing yards and 26th in total yards wins by playing it close to the vest.

    But watching Green Bay go into Detroit and tear up the Lions last Thursday, or watching Drew Brees carve the Giants up with more than 350 passing yards, has to give Harbaugh the notion that the team needs more juice in the offense. Of course, he might have known this in July.

    The old saying is that defense win championships. In the NFL playoffs, however, defenses keep teams in games while the offense wins them. Examples?

    Eli Manning leading the Giants late-fourth-quarter drive against the Patriots in the Super Bowl victory.

    Ben Roethlisberger’s last-minute drive that propelled the Steelers over the Cardinals in the Super Bowl

    Drew Brees’ third-quarter heroics that sparked the Saints over the Colts in the Super Bowl.

    Aaron Rodgers of the Packers tearing through the Steelers defense in the Super Bowl.

    All those teams had good defenses, yet the game turned when one offense took control. Here are four things that Harbaugh could do to boost the 49ers offense.

Kaepernick Package

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    There’s no reason not to expand the offense. That means the team might do well with something completely different. Cam Newton has had great success running out of the pocket in Carolina, and Tim Tebow’s winning in Denver with the read option play.

    Kaepernick ran for more than 1,000 yards in Nevada. He’s 6’5” and can run, and he’s a much better passer than Tebow. Integrating a Pistol Package (Pistol being the offense Kaepernick ran in college) could give defenses fits.

    Harbaugh has to wonder whether he has the personnel to run the Pistol. The offensive line wouldn’t be much different, but the backfield would need to be.

    Would Frank Gore line up behind Kaepernick and run the dive into the line, not sure when he’d get the ball (the quarterback reads the defense and either gives or keeps depending on what the defense does)? Would Kendall Hunter be a better fit in that role?

    What sort of passing game comes out of the formation? The Niners are strong in tight ends, not speedy receivers who keep the secondary well off the line of scrimmage.

    Against the weaker members of the NFC West, it might be something that Harbaugh tries. He’s had 10 days between games, and adding another wrinkle to the offense can only help. Moreover, getting Kaepernick into games can only help the team in case of injury to Alex Smith.

Sign Randy Moss

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    It’s past the trading deadline, so that’s not an avenue of hope. There’s always the waiver wire, but the type of player the Niners need—a big-play receiver—most likely won’t be around because teams with lesser records will have first rights.

    So, as the coaches say, there’s the street, meaning those out of the game. Randy Moss tickled the idea of coming back this year. Why not for a team that might need him for six to 10 plays a game? A team that plays on grass, will be in the playoffs and could go pretty deep at that? That means more opportunity to promote Randy Moss.

    The one thing that might hold that back is the fact that Moss, when in shape, might be too fast and outrun Alex Smith’s throwing range.

Alex Boone to the Rescue

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    He’s 6’8” and ready. Perhaps it’s time to have Alex Boone replace Anthony Davis at right tackle. Davis got beat several times last week in Baltimore, but then, so did a lot of people.

    The idea of adding more potency to the 49er offense suggests at first light to mean a deep passing game. If that’s the case, Alex Smith needs time to let the receivers get deep. There was no time last week against Baltimore. The offensive line simply got stomped.

    So, perhaps Boone might be a better choice in pass protection than Davis. Perhaps not. But it might be worth a try.

Make Team Execute

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    After the 16-6 loss to the Ravens, there’s no real need to panic. The Niners have the inside track for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Even if they and the Saints finish with the same record, the 49ers superior conference record would be the tiebreaker. That the Niners play four of their next five against NFC West opponents helps as well.

    That said, there is no doubt that the 49ers can do better. The power struggle that erupted in Baltimore came down to the Ravens beating up the offensive line. The 49ers don’t have to worry about that Baltimore until February.

    Looking back at the Arizona game, there was a malaise to the offense. It got close but couldn’t score. There were six field-goal attempts in the first half. The Niners need to be better at getting TDs when in the red zone.

    The strength of the 49er offense is its physicality. Anthony Davis is part of that; the offensive line is big and strong and mobile. Running well then using play-action passes for the big throws are the easiest way to get touchdowns. And you don’t have to trade anyone to do it.

    Furthermore, the Niners lead the league in where it has, on average, started its possessions, and it also leads the league in making its opponents go the furthest for TDs.

    That’s a huge stat. Scoring a few more TDs would do much to bring wider margins, which in turn would allow Colin Kaepernick to get some time, the offense to try deep passes and five wideout sets and let Alex Boone work some at tackle.