By John Rozum
August 30, 2012
Ted Ginn Jr. is a bigger component of the San Francisco 49ers than given credit.
Still, Ginn has dealt with health concerns before and 2012 does offer concern. According to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Ginn limped off the field after he was tackled around the right ankle on a 9-yard reverse in the third quarter of San Francisco's 29-24 preseason win Sunday.
Ginn was taken to the locker room, and X-rays were negative, head coach Jim Harbaugh said.
San Francisco needs Ginn completely healthy for a run at Super Bowl XLVII, because the last thing any 49ers fan wants is a special teams encore from the NFC Championship game.
He can also help out a lot more offensively than expected. Since the Niners possess so much talent they have an opportunity to expand the playbook by presenting a more dynamic attack on top of the traditional calls.
Let's see where Ginn fits in the offense and why he's needed in winning the Bay Area's sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Adds Another Dimension to the Running Game
Obvious plays with Ginn on the ground are any kind of reverse, end-around or direct snap if San Francisco were to sneak in the Wildcat.
The jet sweep, though, is the one option where Ginn can really do some damage to defenses.
It can, however, quickly go awry when used in predictable formations and game situations.
For one, it can be an easy read because the defense simply has to contain and be aware of blindside blocks. With Ted Ginn, the 49ers have the luxury of fielding Frank Gore in the backfield.
Any time Gore gets the rock inside, Ginn should be sweeping around the edge on a fake. And this is not to be like those end-around fakes we constantly see on every running play between the tackles.
Ginn has to remain close to the line of scrimmage and come directly across the developing play, not bending into the backfield for the fake. Maintaining precise linearity prevents the linebackers and secondary from viewing the handoff/fake because of the traffic caused by the offensive and defensive lines.
In short, the second level players briefly freeze like it's a play-action pass.
When Ginn finally receives the handoff, he'll see open space around the edge and the chance to turn on the jets. This can also be used as a double play-action pass (first off Gore) in which Ginn turns his fake into any route combination downfield.
This keeps the defense honest and will force the ends to rush upfield more quickly, thus creating a safer pocket for Alex Smith.
Stretch or Widen Coverage Downfield
Alex Smith is one fortunate signal caller in 2012, because the 49ers have supplied him with an abundance of talent.
With targets like Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and tight end Vernon Davis, Smith can't go wrong. Include the running game with Gore and rookie LaMichael James—who is also a receiving threat—and Ginn will never face double coverage.
One thing the 49ers must steer clear of, though, is lining Ginn up in non-spread formations.
This will just limit his acceleration and speed because the more aggressive corners will jam and use the boundary as an additional defender. Put Ginn in the slot and inside of Moss, however, and he has more room to create separation and get downfield.
No one can match him in single coverage and every Cover 2 scheme will have to honor him, splitting down the middle. Even if teams go Cover 3 or 4 against the Niners when in a spread formation, Ginn can just drag over the intermediate level.
He's eerily similar to Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers in that Ginn must get the rock when in stride. Doing so allows him to burn past any would-be tacklers for excellent yards after the catch.
No, he's not going to make 40-plus receptions but he won't have to.
Ginn is just another viable option for Smith, as his speed alone will prevent a defense from doubling any one of San Francisco's receivers.
Special Teams Part 1: Kick Returning
Being a double-duty return man is quite unique in today's NFLand the 49ers have a major competitive advantage with Ginn back deep.
Reverting back to his days on the Miami Dolphins, Ginn compiled 3,386 kick return yards and took two back before joining San Francisco in 2010.
The video is of Ginn's two touchdowns with Miami that happened during the same game three years ago.
Here, we see Ginn in his element. He displays excellent vision, athleticism at dodging tackles, patience and that impressive high gear to outrun defenders when in open spaces.
As dominant as Ginn was in South Florida, his most efficient year came with San Francisco in 2011. There, he was third in the league, averaging 27.6 yards per kickoff return and totaled 800 yards with one score.
Kickoffs are where this man is most dangerous because he's already hitting near full stride while the lanes are being set up. All Ginn has to do is pick a side and burst through the slimmest of openings.
Field position is obviously key, and setting up this offense past its own 20-yard line before each possession only gives the Niners another major edge.
Special Teams Part 2: Punt Returning
Known just as well for his punt-returning skills, Ginn wasn't present for the 49ers during the NFC title game last January.
After Kyle Williams lost two fumbles on punts it was evident that Ginn was sorely missed.
After all, Ginn enjoyed his best season as a punt returner with 466 yards, one score and a 12.3 average in 2011. Unlike kickoffs, though, punt-returning requires even more patience, trust and anticipation in order to be consistent.
When fielded blocks aren't as smoothly set up as kickoffs and in spite of a designed return in place, it's mostly improvisation from the returner and a solid effort of blocking from everyone else. And with his experience, Ginn has been a prime performer on punts.
His acceleration and lateral quickness is the most vital here, because getting upfield sooner is needed. On kickoffs he's already running, so acceleration and field awareness doesn't factor in as much.
But because Ginn can explode fast and change directions on a dime, he gives San Francisco another field position advantage.
And the worst-case scenario comes in the form of punters attempting to direct the punt away from Ginn. Doing so, however, sometimes results in a shanked punt that still gives the Niners better field position.
Any way you slice it, Ginn is a distinct asset to the 49ers and his contributions will lead to a Super Bowl.