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Mailbag: Best Identity For The Offense?

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What does this team aspire to be? Is it a smash-mouth running football team that chews up the clock and keeps its defense off the field, or a quick-strike, long ball team, or a balanced team 50/50 run-pass ratio? What do the coaches want the offense and defense to be? — JOEY ARNEL SAYSON / SANTA MONICA, CA

Nick: That's a good question. The problem is, most coaches won't provide the answer you're wanting. They'll say, we want a balanced offense that wants to score as much as possible. But in the past, it was a run-first, power offense but I don't think that's the case anymore. This offense is better when it's more wide open and spread out. That's why you're seeing more points in the fourth quarter when the team has fallen behind. I really think all teams would like to be balanced because it's easier to call plays, get mismatches and not be as predictable. Right now, this doesn't seem like a balanced attack because the offensive line hasn't been as dominant in the running game.

Jonny: Ultimately, it wants to be a team that doesn't turn the ball over and gets even a little bit of a break from its defense. It can't form any sort of identity until those two things happen. This team could form some kind of identity if it could grab a legitimate lead at any point. Imagine this offense with a 10-0 lead or a 14-3 lead. Zeke could go to work on wearing down a defense, and Dak could win a game throwing for 280 yards, instead of desperately throwing for north of 400 yards in unlikely comebacks.

I'm curious as to why defensive coordinator Mike Nolan hasn't looked at playing rookies Bradlee Anae and Neville Gallimore? Maybe injecting a bit of youth on the defensive side of the ball is what this team really needs. Your thoughts? — BRIAN SELWIN / HICKSVILLE, NY

Nick: Probably couldn't hurt at this point. Let's not forget that these coaches know they're 1-3. They also watch practice. They also have shown they aren't afraid to replace guys in the starting lineup, even if it means playing rookies over veterans. So my assumption would be that Gallimore and Anae haven't really shown they would be any better than what they've got. Trysten Hill has flashed some moments, along with Antwaun Woods. I can't see Gallimore playing over them right now. As for Anae, maybe he can provide some pass-rush help off the edge. They certainly haven't been as good as they want to be. Don't forget, Randy Gregory is also eligible to return after two more games so that's another pass-rusher in the mix.

Jonny: I'm all for the idea. I loved them both as draft picks. But my answer to that doesn't really come with any more inside knowledge than you have. The coaches are the ones in practice with them every day. Neither is likely to grab a starting job, but mixing them into the rotation more seems like a reasonable experiment for a defense that's regularly getting torched as is. I particularly like the idea of Anae coming in for Aldon Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence in spot snaps.

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