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Practice Report 9/10: Preparing for Kelly's Offense

Posted Sep 10, 2016

New 49ers head coach Chip Kelly is famous for his up-tempo offense. The Rams have plenty to study in order to get prepared for Monday Night Football.

New 49ers head coach Chip Kelly is famous for his up-tempo offense. He won a lot of games with the system at Oregon and it propelled the Eagles to the playoffs in 2013 — Kelly’s first year as head coach in Philadelphia.

Now he’s brought it to a fresh group of players in San Francisco. And while the Rams are familiar with much of the NFC West rival’s on-field personnel, they are not as sure of how the new coaching staff will adapt the scheme to the group.

Nevertheless, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams appeared confident in his plan for Monday Night Football based on Kelly’s track record.

“Every coach has a history — there’s nothing secret anymore,” Williams said Saturday. “Every single game film in college, every single game film in the NFL [media] gets to watch, and fans get to watch. So there’s nothing secret anymore about the game.

“We understand coach Kelly. I have a lot of respect for him and his staff,” Williams continued. “There’s really not anything that’s hidden anymore in our league.”

The Rams do at least have one game of experience against Kelly’s offense, having played the Eagles in Philadelphia in 2014. That’s one of the many games the defense has studied this week in preparation for Week 1.

“We’ve really been watching that tape and what they’ve been doing over the last couple preseason games, and just try to combine them and get a bigger picture on what we’re going to see Monday,” defensive tackle Michael Brockers said.

Still, it can be challenging to try to get a read on how San Francisco may go about attacking Los Angeles’ defense because there isn’t much data. Preseason games are notoriously vanilla in terms of scheme.

“It’s almost like you’ve got to focus on those couple plays that [the firs-team offense plays] — almost just focus on the third preseason game. That’s kind of like the big one for all of the first units and stuff like that,” Brockers said. “So you watch that game, get a key in on what they’re going to do. Everybody is basic, so we’re expecting them to put some different plays in, some stuff that might challenge us defensively. But for the most part, we’ve got to be ready for everything.”

“Our defense here, we kind of install a lot of checks and adjustments throughout the week,” defensive end Robert Quinn said. “And we try to simplify it for ourselves. We’ve got a good core game plan, and we’ll kind of anticipate what they might do.”

Aside from how the Niners will use their personnel is the inherent challenge that comes with the speed of Kelly’s offense.

“I think somebody said they snap the ball between 12 and 16 seconds after a play,” middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “So the plays are going to have to come in quick and we just have to get lined up really fast.”

“It’s really a distraction, gets the defense off a little bit. That’s what it’s supposed to do — supposed to be kind of an intimidation thing for the defense. But not for us,” Brockers said. “We plan on being right there, ready for them, and going faster than they are at practice so we can be ready for that speed.”

While much of the offensive attention for San Francisco has gone to its quarterback situation, running back Carlos Hyde may prove to be Los Angeles’ biggest challenge on Monday night. Hyde had three runs go for at least 20 yards in the preseason, showing he’s back from the injuries that plagued him in 2015. The Ohio State product played only seven games last year, rushing for 470 yards and three touchdowns — 168 of which came against the Vikings in Week 1, which was also the second game of Monday Night Football.

“He gets downhill and he’s very explosive,” Ogletree said. “He can make all the runs, all the cuts, and he can hurt you. If you don’t wrap up, he’s going to break through arm tackles. And they do a good job of getting you spread out and giving him easy lanes to run in.”

“His patience in his scheme — he finds those backside cuts, and he’s just getting better every year,” Brockers said. “He’s a big back. We’ve just got to get him down to the ground.”

What the Rams do have in their corner is a defensive coordinator who constantly preaches playing fast. Going against an offense like San Francisco’s, that may be even more important for the first contest of 2016.

“That’s the philosophy since he’s been here, that’s been his whole M.O. of just how things should be,” Quinn said. “It’s just more of an emphasis trying to be exact no matter the tempo. And if we get a little rattled, like I said, we have our checks and adjustments. And just play ball.”

EXTRA POINTS

— While there has been a bit made this week of the Rams going to more of a nickel scheme with their first-team defense outside the building, Ogletree and Williams don’t see it as much of an adjustment.

“It doesn’t really change anything for us,” Ogletree said. “We feel like we played mostly nickel throughout the whole season last year. Most teams do play nickel now because it’s a passing league. So it’s just, our nickel has to get a lot more work in during practice. And the guys, if we have base calls, we have to be aware of that, too.”

“You take a look at how many teams we’re going to play this year that’s going to play two backs in the backfield against us. Not many people like doing that against us,” Williams said. “So take a look at how many times we’re going to play three linebackers this entire season. We’re going to play Lamarcus [Joyner], we’re going to play another safety, another corner, another player in those areas that a linebacker plays.”

According to Williams, that’s all about his philosophy of creating the best scheme to fit the players he has to work with.

“We’ll do the same thing on how we adapt this year’s scheme as opposed to the last two years that I’ve been here, or when I was with the Saints, or [Washington], or the Bills, or the Titans,” Williams said. “We have to adjust to what’s best for these young men right here.”

— For the final injury report of the week, the Rams have declared right tackle Rob Havenstein (foot) and linebacker Bryce Hager (concussion) questionable for Monday night. Cornerback E.J. Gaines (thigh), wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (shoulder), and wide receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) have been declared out.

However, there was good news on the report regarding Spruce. The Pac 12’s all-time leader in receptions was able to participate in practice on a limited basis on Saturday. He did not participate in either of Thursday or Friday’s sessions.