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Who Will Be San Francisco's Third Wide Receiver?

Posted Aug 21, 2014

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman shared his thoughts on the ongoing position battle to see who will be San Francisco's third wideout in 2014.

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman met with the media on Wednesday hours before the team's final open training camp practice.

Roman touched on a number of topics concerning his offensive unit, including the state of the team's passing attack after two preseason games without a touchdown.

Here's a look at seven takeaways from Roman's conversation with the press.

Number Three Receiver Battle

The 49ers entered training camp with a great problem - they had the deepest wide receiver group of the Jim Harbaugh era. Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin will start the season at wideout, but there's a quality battle taking place to be the team's slot option.

Enter Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd. Both veterans have shined at various times of training camp.

"We don't put numbers on them," the coordinator said.

So which receiver would enter the game first if San Francisco needed a three-receiver set?

"It depends," Roman said. "I think we'll have some flexibility there."

For Roman, the next few weeks are all about seeing how to best utilize their experience. Roman said he has a good feel for Johnson, the former Buffalo Bills receiver whom the 49ers traded for after day one of the draft.

"We definitely understand how he can fit in," Roman said. "We just need to keep working to develop the level of chemistry that we want. And that's an ongoing process. That's not something that will ever stop. Hopefully it peaks the last day of the season."

Johnson and Lloyd each have one reception through two preseason games for six and seven yards, respectively.

Will 49ers Go Pass-heavy in 2014?

That's a question on everyone's mind.

Roman touched on it.

"That remains to be seen," he said. "It’s week to week. It’s all about how does that matchup against a particular team. We play quite a bit of empty. We probably used more tight formations than some people and we haven’t played a lot of, haven’t lived in, three wide receiver sets like some have. And, you know there’s really, really good teams that play in three wide receiver sets, but there’s a lot of teams that do the same and don’t enjoy the same success. So, it’ll be very specific to us, our personnel, how it matches up against the other team."

With that said, Roman agreed with a reporter who suggested that San Francisco's personnel could spread teams out this coming season.

"I like where our wide receivers are," Roman said. "I think they’re working hard and there’s a good chance that you see more of them."

The Return of the Right Tackle

Starting right tackle Anthony Davis returned to practice this week. The fifth-year pro, however, has not participated in team periods or 1-on-1 blocking drills. Davis told reporters that he'll be ready for the team's Week 1 road game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Roman spoke optimistically about Davis' rehab work.

"I think Anthony is getting there and he’s starting to take part in some of our (walk-through) practices, which is good to see," Roman said. "We’ll just see how it goes in conjunction with our training staff. But I think you definitely want to have as much practice as you can relative to your health. But sometimes, hey, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. You do the best you can and get ready the best you can.”

When Davis is able to re-join the first-team offense, Roman said he'd like to see Jonathan Martin get work at guard. In Roman's mind, Martin is capable of playing four positions on the offensive line, center being the exception.

Looney Improves

Staying with the offensive line, Roman commended right guard Joe Looney for improving his play from Week 1 of the preseason to Week 2. After his debut against the Baltimore Ravens, Roman was critical of Looney's pad level. But against the Broncos, Roman saw improvement from his third-year guard. Looney played much lower to the ground.

"He’s improved that every day," Roman said. "Think there’s a couple plays he could’ve done better on. He improved tremendously in that area. Joe’s a smart guy. He tends to put two-and-two together.

"A wise coach once told me, ‘The number one axiom in football is the low man wins in the trenches.’ He’s figuring that out. As a first-time starter, every day you’ve got to be on the details of things every single day, every single play. It’s a little different when you get put into that role than being in the backup role. Every play there’s pressure on you to do your job and to do it in the way that you’re being coached to do. Players that respond in that fashion generally do well and he’s doing that.”

Lattimore Works on Cutting

Second-year running back Marcus Lattimore is still rehabbing and has not been activated to practice.

Roman said Lattimore is improving each day.

"He’s looking good," the coordinator said. "Our training staff are the people to ask on that if you want to get specifics... They’re putting him through a lot of change of direction stuff, hard-type cutting. He’s looking good."

Lattimore remains on the Active/Non-Football Injury List.

QB Johnson Evaluated

Josh Johnson owns the highest quarterback rating of San Francisco's four passers this preseason. Johnson (90.0) has completed 72.7 percent of his passes and has not thrown an interception.

But is he standing out to San Francisco's coaches?

"I think there’s a couple of things that have happened in games that he would like to take back, maybe do over again," Roman said. "Those are things that are very fixable. He got us going into a nice rhythm and tempo in Baltimore and then we had the fumbled snap. Those are things that just can’t happen and I think he understands that.

"We see him for umpteen number of snaps every day in practice and that serves as a really good barometer. And then, gameday is when you’ve got to put it all together as a player. So, we’ve just got to as a unit do a better job on gameday.”

This and That

Roman said...

-Garrett Celek is "coming along," but there's no exact date for when the third-year tight end will be cleared to practice. Celek is battling a back injury and is currently on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List.

-The team's lack of scoring in the preseason is an area of concern to Roman. He said there was great individual performances agianst the Denver Broncos last week, but there wasn't enough "collective cohesion."

-San Francisco's coaches were in favor of the NFL expanding practice squads from eight players to 10. "It was a great decision by the National Football League, really is," Roman said. "Just gives guys, more people, more players, a chance to develop and have a job, but develop. Selfishly, gives us a chance to develop a couple extra guys. I think it’s a great thing. In this day and age, bravo, great decision.”

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