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49ers Adopt ‘Keep Marching’ Philosophy

Posted Aug 20, 2012

The 49ers are 1-1 in the 2012 preseason, but things are relatively positive when taking into account the steady improvements being made by Jim Harbaugh’s club.

Throughout their time together in training camp and two preseason contests, San Francisco continues to improve its tough-minded identity. So far, the team leads the NFL in preseason rushing yards with an average of 189 yards per contest and has remained stout on defense, allowing only one offensive touchdown.

Another shining example has been the success of the first-team offense which has yet to turn the ball over in three possessions. Those drives have been mostly successful, lasting for 12, 9 and 13 plays, respectively.

“The thing I keep striving for is zero defects,” Harbaugh said on Monday, after praising his team’s recent preseason performance against a physical Houston Texans team.

The 49ers, themselves, continue to improve and are doing so with starters likely returning to the lineup. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith dressed for Monday’s practice after missing action last week, including Saturday night’s 20-9 loss to the Texans.

Ultimately, Harbaugh envisions his team using camp practices and preseason games as a means to prepare for the Sept. 9 season opener against the Green Bay Packers.  He also said veteran running back Brandon Jacobs, who went down with a knee injury after an 8-yard run against the Texans, would possibly be available for the Packers game. But until then, Harbaugh’s goal for everyone else is to minimize mental errors, penalties and turnovers.

“That’s striving for perfection, zero defects in those areas,” Harbaugh said, adding that he wants to “get the feeling like we’re a well-oiled machine.”

“That’s what we want to accomplish in these next couple weeks before we get to our opener,” Harbaugh also said.

Those goals are attainable in the mind of starting center Jonathan Goodwin.

In two games, the starting offense has put together scoring drives on their opening possessions. First, the unit put together a 12-play touchdown drive against the Minnesota Vikings, and followed it up this past week with a 9-play scoring drive that resulted in a 50-yard David Akers field goal.

“I think it’s been pretty good,” Goodwin said of the offense’s early production. “There are some things we can clean up, but we’ve been able to move the ball up and down the field. That’s always a good sign.”

An 11-year veteran like Goodwin certainly sees value in the preseason. Although the pressure to win isn’t the same as the regular season, the emphasis on improvement is far too great to ignore.

“Each day you’re trying to improve and get better week in and week out,” the 6-foot-3, 318-pound lineman said. “You try to look at your technique and make sure you’re improving from week-to-week. You look at it as a whole, how you’re playing and how your technique went throughout the game. And hopefully when that opening week gets here, everything will take care of itself.”

Harbaugh’s already moved on from Saturday night’s recent result and is looking towards a preseason Week 3 road matchup against the Denver Broncos. In his mind, adopting a “keep climbing” approach will only benefit his team when the regular season rolls around. Preseason results won’t mean much in a few months, or even a few days.

“The thing about preseason is that it’s so very important, the day that you’re in,” Harbaugh explained. “Then, two-three days later, what happened then is of much-less significance… What we can learn from is very important and that’s what we’ll strive to improve on as much as we can.”

Defensively, Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers, an 8-year veteran, subscribes to the same line of thinking as Harbaugh.

“Preseason games are about repping the few calls we do put out there and trying to make the best of them,” the 6-foot, 192-pound cornerback said. “You make sure you’re in the right position and that you have the right technique.”

So far, San Francisco’s first defensive unit has yet to allow a touchdown in two preseason games. Rogers takes pride in that fact, knowing that the only defensive touchdown surrendered so far was the Texans’ first unit scoring on the 49ers’ second-string defense.

“As coaches and players, you look at preseason games totally different,” Rogers explained. “Their starters played longer than our starters – their starting group was going against our second group on defense. Our coaches were maybe evaluating what our backups would do against their starters and see how they move, how they react to them.

“There’s a lot of stuff to look at and evaluate. It’s about players and positions. Some guys trying something new than what they’re used to so it’s a lot of different things to look at versus just a win and a lost.”

One thing that seems to be changing is the amount of blitzes in the preseason.

Asked if he noticed an increase from his playing days, Harbaugh couldn’t say it has ramped up one way or the other.

“It’s a pressure league, every team has a pressure package,” Harbaugh went on to say. “The most common blitzes you’ll see in the preseason.”

Rogers also sees blitzing being similar to year’s past, but Goodwin, who makes the blocking calls for the 49ers offensive line, enjoys being tested early on.

Considering that Goodwin’s lining up this year next to a converted tackle Alex Boone, who’s lining up now at right guard, communicating blitz pickups in the preseason is a welcomed opportunity.

“The more looks you get in the preseason, the better we’re off,” Goodwin said. “We’ve seen some different things and it’s helping us improve as a group and as a unit. I’m sure it’s helping Alex out a lot.”

The linemen and the rest of the team will continue their upward climb this Sunday in an all-imporant primetime preseason matchup with the Broncos. Typically starters will play into the third quarter leaving for a perfect opportunity for the team to keep its march towards Green Bay.

Preseason Live: San Francisco 49ers

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