SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is on the minds of the San Francisco 49ers. And for Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman, he’s got to find a way to stop the rush of Dallas’ strong front seven.
“Their defense presents a lot of challenges,” Roman said Thursday. “If you really look at their defense from a personnel standpoint, they’re pretty darn good. Rob Ryan has got a very diverse history.”
Ryan has been a defensive coordinator for the past decade (New England 2000-03, Oakland 2004-08, Cleveland 2009-10) and Roman recalls the experiences he has had coaching against him. However, Roman understands that Ryan is constantly changing his schemes every year and those past experiences won’t provide much help in preparation this week.
And that’s what Roman is expecting from the Dallas defense — a lot experience that can give the 49ers a tough time.
“Against Dallas, you have to be ready for anything,” Roman said. “You have to be ready for the blitz, you have to be ready for a 3-man rush and they can change personalities very quickly.”
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards knows Rob Ryan very well. Edwards has played against a Ryan-led defense and knows what to expect from the Cowboys on Sunday.
“I played in Cleveland while Rob Ryan there, so I know the defense well,” Edwards said. “I’ve seen his defense for the past six years. I played Oakland a couple times when he was out there. I played in Cleveland with him and played against him last year. I know Coach Ryan well.”
Against the Cowboys, the 49ers could be put in a situation to match the offensive output by Dallas. The 49ers offense hasn’t shown this preseason that they are capable to putting up big numbers. Edwards thinks that if the 49ers need to, they can match the Cowboys’ offense.
“I know we have what it takes to be in one of those shootouts,” Edwards said. “The have the offensive line, we have the receivers, we have the running back and the playcalling ability from the coaches to be able to be in that.”
But getting that high scoring level requires strong pass protection against linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The five-time Pro Bowl linebacker can give quarterback Alex Smith a headache with his pass rush — especially on an offense that’s still taking some time to fully jell as a unit.
“He’s an elite player against the run and pass,” Roman said of Ware.
The 49ers offense has to be aware of where Ware lines up for every play. And in preparation for that, the 49ers had linebacker Monte Simmons play as Ware on the scout team. Rookie linebacker Aldon Smith also took a couple snaps as Ware during yesterday’s practice.
“I might sometimes (do more scout team work as Ware),” Smith said. “I think me, and him, both have long arms and that’s a look I can give to our offense.”
Smith has been studying Ware when he played at Troy University. Ware played as a down lineman and has transitioned into an outside linebacker — the same transition Smith is making right now.
Despite all the challenges the Cowboys defense can present, Edwards still thinks that the 49ers can match up against them on Sunday.
“They’re going to be looking for blood,” Edwards said of the Cowboys after their loss to the Jets last week. “I know they’re going to come out here and give us all they have. And by the same token, we’re going to show people that we can score points, that we can get first downs and pass the ball. For us, it’s definitely a measuring stick and definitely a game we want to get bad.”
Smith echoed the feelings toward this Sunday’s game.
“It’s a chance for us to make a statement and let people know that things have changed and we’re trying to win games and change everything around,” Smith said. “We won the game last week and we’re taking everything week by week.”
- WR Michael Crabtree ran all the routes he was told to during position drills in practice. He wasn’t running at full speed, but he looked close.
- S Dashon Goldson was part of coverage drills and looked like he wasn’t hindered by his knee.
- RB Kendall Hunter, by the looks of the reps, is the backup running back. Anthony Dixon is the third option.
- CB Carlos Rogers, who played against the Cowboys twice a year in his six seasons with the Washington Redskins has put in some insight on his experience with the Cowboys. But defensive coordinator Vic Fangio says that he’s not going to take too much from Rogers’ experience, knowing that it may not be the same as years past.
- Fangio said that the reason why LB Parys Haralson has not been on most downs is becuase he wants to keep him fresh later in the game. He credits Haralson’s game-winning sack to the extra rest he got.
- CB Shawntae Spencer, despite being medically cleared to play after a hamstring injury, isn’t in football shape yet according to Fangio.
“He’s not in football shape as of last week. Your body needs to be right for an NFL game.”
- Roman on the team’s effort to increase the impact of their passing game:
“We’re working hard at the passing game and we’re getting better all the time.”
- WR Ted Ginn’s role as a receiver, according to Roman, will not be limited just because he’s a great special teams player. We can expect Ginn to have contributions on offense.
- K David Akers noted that with the increase of kick returns despite the new rule change, it could be to the point where we could see more in time. Akers also noted that injuries can still be a concern because of the lack of a three-man wedge.
“Only time will tell,” he said of the impact of the rule change.