Running back LaMichael James (right) will be a multipurpose threat on offense and special teams. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Last season, it was the pistol formation, read-option and power packages with extra, jumbo blockers.
What will 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman come up with for 2013?
Roman, known for being a creative, adaptive coach, this week told 49ers.com that he’s constantly experimenting and tweaking the offense to take advantage of the talents he has on offense.
And, though No. 1 wide receiver Michael Crabtree is lost for perhaps the entire season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon, Roman believes he has a very talented and deep group of players that will allow him to devise some new wrinkles this coming season.
“I think our players are the guide there,” Roman told Scott Kegley during the third week of the 49ers’ organized team activities (OTAs). “We’re always going to try to work to their strengths. They’re very open-minded and study hard. That might allow us to do more than some teams do, maybe not. We’re always going to try to expand, evolve and adapt to the strengths of our players.”
While it’s still not certain who will emerge from a group of wide receivers to pick up the slack left by Crabtree’s absence, the running back corps is a full house.
With Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, Jewel Hampton – and even Marcus Lattimore (who might be held out a season to fully recover from injuries) – the Niners have a strong corps of ballcarriers.
It will be Roman’s job to get all of them involved in the offense to take advantage of their individual talents.
When Kendall Hunter was lost for the season with an injury in November, the rookie James flashed speed and breakaway ability.
Now Roman has both to use behind Gore.
“Kendall Hunter is a very good football player and really brought a different dynamic to our run and pass game,” said Roman, who notes Hunter is making a great recovery from his Achilles tear. “He’s right on schedule. LaMichael is gong through it again for the second time. You can see his comfort level in the system, being able to branch out and do some different things.
“We’re very excited. Jewel Hampton is another guy to complement Frank Gore. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but really like where we’re at and where we’re going.”
Hampton was an undrafted rookie free agent from Southern Illinois signed last season. But he had two knee injuries in college and used last season to get back his strength and fitness.
Hunter, meanwhile, says it’s good to be back in workouts, ready to show what he can do.
“It feels good to be out there running around,” he said recently.
It’s possible that James might not only play a role in the backfield, but on special teams as the No. 1 returner, replacing Ted Ginn Jr. In OTAs, James has been fielding both kickoffs and punts.
In his second year, James is now completely familiar with the playbook and comfortable as kick/punt returner. He could be a difference-maker in several areas in 2013.
“I’ve been in the offense for a year, picked it up pretty fast to my knowledge and it’s second nature to me,” James told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group recently. “I’m trying to be an all-around athlete.”
And, one more interesting piece for Roman to use on his chess board.