49ers notes: Slant pattern makes return

August 17, 2011, 9:35 pm
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Alex Smith remained after practice Tuesday evening working with 49ers receiver Braylon Edwards on a pass route that hasn't been seen around these parts in some time.The slant route, a staple of West Coast offenses past, is returning to the 49ers this season under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Smith and Edwards tried two of those patterns in the exhibition opener Friday night against the New Orleans Saints. Smith's first attempt was thrown behind Edwards, resulting in an incomplete pass. The next try was on target for a 12-yard gain.Fourth-year receiver Joshua Morgan said this is the first summer during his time with the team that the slant pattern has been a major part of the 49ers' offense. The 49ers are bringing back the Bill Walsh offense for the first time since Mike McCarthy as offensive coordinator after the 2005 season to become Green Bay Packers head coach.
"That's the first route you learn when you start playing football," Morgan said. "That's the West Coast offense. We ran them in the past, but there wasn't a big emphasis on them like there is now."Morgan said the 49ers' receivers have seen all the film of Jerry Rice and John Taylor catching quick slants, breaking a tackle and sprinting to the end zone. Now, the current group of receivers will try to make their own highlights.
Morgan, Edwards and Michael Crabtree are all likely to benefit from the play, as each is known as a powerful run-after-the-catch threat. Football Outsiders listed Morgan as second in the league last season with an average of 7.2 yards after the catch. Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson ranked first at 7.3."It's like heaven," Morgan said of the sensation of catching a perfectly thrown slant at full speed. "You know you might take it 80 for a touchdown like they used to do here back in the day." CENTER OF ATTENTION: It's the usual training camp ritual. Where is Adam Snyder going to line up today?Snyder, who has played every position on the offensive line throughout seven-year NFL career, is in the mix for a starting job on the line. The question is . . . where?"Right now, I'm focusing on what I'm doing at center," Snyder said. "That's the one position I haven't played much of. And the transition to guard is easier to what it's been playing center."Snyder has been working with the first-team offense at center this summer. But after the 49ers signed veteran free-agent Jonathan Goodwin to a deal that included 4 million in guaranteed money, it's reasonable to assume Goodwin will eventually work his way into the starting role.But Snyder continues to see action at center, while also working into the mix at right guard, where he is challenging Chilo Rachal."I've got a pretty good understanding of the offense," Snyder said. "Having Goodwin here has helped me. He's been giving me pointers. The competition is good. I'm excited about how this is going to end and see who the best five guys are. The road we're taking right now is getting the best five on the field."It was a difficult exhibition-season opener for the 49ers, as Smith and Colin Kaepernick were under constant duress against the New Orleans Saints' blitz. But Snyder has been encouraged with the steps that have been taken to remedy the 49ers' protection problems after the Saints rolled up six sacks and steady pressure.
"It's our job at center to call out the protections and all our calls were on point," he said. "From there, it was breakdowns of technique. Sometimes it's not the offensive line's fault either, but it always falls back on us. That's fine, too. That's just how it goes."Having that film was good for us, seeing where the breakdowns were and seeing what kind of communication happened and talk about it. For the first game, obviously it wasn't what we wanted. We've corrected those issues and looking forward to this Oakland game."

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