The 49ers go into their season opener in Green Bay with a versatile and multiple offense, something wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged during game preparations this week.
“I just feel like we’ve got our own style,” Crabtree said. “Those guys are a spread offense, that’s all they do is throw the ball. I mean, they’ve got some run game. But that’s their offense. We’re really not like that. Just focusing on being us.”
Then Crabtree was asked to describe the 49ers’ offense and he couldn’t do it. And that’s exactly the goal. With the additions of receiving threats Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and the drafting of speedster A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers have more than enough to remedy their lack of big plays last season.
They only had six plays of over 40 yards in 2011, but with the possibility of being more wide open, the 49ers have an option that was missing last season.
However, they retain their ability to go big with the jumbo formation and pound the ball at the Packers’ undersized inside linebackers. Often during the preseason, the 49ers added 355-pound Leonard Davis as an extra blocker and then inserted 292-pound Will Tukuafu as a pile-driving lead blocker.
The 49ers could also go the other way and put quarterback Colin Keapernick on the field with former Oregon standout running back LaMichael James and go with a radical offense that looks like the pistol scheme Kaepernick once ran at the University of Nevada.
That scheme entails rollouts and read-option runs by Kaepernick, a play in which he raced 78 yards for a touchdown against the Vikings in the preseason opener.
The 49ers might not ever unearth their version of the pistol. But with offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s innovative style and coach Jim Harbaugh’s proclivity for the surprise, they just might. It means the Packers will have to prepare for all of it.
“They’ve definitely changed their personnel on the perimeter on offense,” McCarthy said. How they go about it, we’ll prepare the best we can.”
That might be McCarthy’s way of saying he doesn’t know what the 49ers will do.
The Packers’ offense is more predictable, but no less potent. With MVP Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the 49ers, who finished last season ranked No. 1 in total defense, know they’ll have their hands full.
“He’d be really fun to watch,” Harbaugh said of Rodgers. “He’d be something to watch if you didn’t have to play against him. But just that. I think that sums it up in a pretty tidy box. I don’t know of anybody that’s ever played the quarterback position at the level he’s playing at now, and has been playing at. Just phenomenal, phenomenal.”
McCarthy said that teams hide 30 to 40 percent of their looks in the preseason. For the 49ers, that might be more because Harbaugh is highly protective of his schemes. In fact, the 49ers didn’t even announce their starting wide receiver opposite Michael Crabtree until they sent out their depth chart with Randy Moss’s name at the starter’s spot.
It leaves the Packers scrambling to prepare for the unexpected.