After weeks of informal OTA practices, the 49ers are using this week's minicamp to install more of the offense before the veterans break until training camp.
San Francisco finished 30th in the NFL in red-zone production in 2011, scoring touchdowns on just 40.68 percent of the offense's drives inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is spending a good portion of the offseason program working on situational football, looking to improve that execution after the lockout really put first-year staffs behind the eight ball last year.
Roman has also been impressed with quarterback Alex Smith, who spent time with "motion specialist" Tom House in April to work on his mechanics.
"Alex is a true pro. He's physically in great shape right now and understands our system a little bit more. He just plays faster in it all the time," said Roman, who also believes Smith's arm strength has improved from building the muscles around his shoulder. "I think his mechanics have definitely improved.
"No question, there's a real awareness and he's put a lot of study time into it too. We film every individual drill. So, he's up there. He'll watch the individual periods and really, really slow mo it. And he's got a good feel for it right now."
Smith has also been helped by working with an improved receiving corps that includes free agents Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and first-round pick A.J. Jenkins, a raw prospect with a lot of work to do. With Michael Crabtree, Patrick Williams and tight end Vernon Davis in the fold, Smith suddenly has a wealthy of receiving targets.
"I just think winning should make everybody happy. And that's what we're all so excited about is watching these guys out here at practice is trying to put the pieces together," Roman said. "And every week it might be a little different, whatever gives us the best chance to win that week. And everything will unfold through training camp, I really believe that."
In a move that would make the Patriots' Bill Belichick proud, the 49ers are also experimenting with some defensive players seeing time on the other side of the ball. Defensive tackles Demarcus Dobbs (tight end) and Will Tukuafu (fullback) are among those who have taken snaps at multiple positions.
"Good football players that might be able to provide some depth and give us a little wrinkle here and there," Roman said. "They're doing a great job."
The communication between the offense and defense isn't limited to Roman working with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Moss has been praised for his work with younger players on both sides of the ball.
"He has really been as good as you can possibly ask for in terms of being totally engrossed in football," said Roman. "He's a throwback. ... He's got his family and football and his faith, and that's what he's all about. And he's about football and he knows the game. And it's been great watching the players interact, the quarterbacks interact, the receivers interact with him. And we'll all be better because of it. And just truly impressed with everything Randy Moss represents."