…Receiver Pierre Garcon said he still feels a lot of pain in his foot/toe. He’s resigned to not being fully healed for the rest of the season. And he’s still not as explosive as he wants to be.
But the coaches are pleased with what he’s showing. In the past two games Garcon has caught a combined 12 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said during pregame warm-ups before Monday’s 17-16 win over New York, they saw Garcon running differently. And they’ve continued to see more explosion.
“Just coming off the ball, being able to push off,” Shanahan said. “He really hasn’t been able to push off since the first quarter of the first game. When he’s more confident, he comes off the ball, he uses his speed. He’s more confident to break down at full speed. All year he hasn’t really been able to come off the ball. He’s had to tempo himself to break down. When you’re a receiver and you can’t make every route look like a go-route, it’s tough. It’s tough to separate like he’s used to.”
His ability to separate is different than the young receivers, especially against press coverage. That ability makes him consistently dangerous: He’s the only receiver to have a game with at least 85 yards receiving (he’s had three; no one else has had more than 80). So, yes, he makes a big difference.
“There’s no new plays or anything we’re calling – really the same plays we’ve done, but he can make a 15-yard gain a 40-yard gain,” Shanahan said. “Just the mentality he has when he catches the ball that he’s really trying to score every time he touches just makes a huge difference. When you make those plays after the catch that he does, it definitely opens up a lot of things.”
Shanahan said he wasn’t sure if Garcon had cleared a mental hurdle, but he did say making plays appears to have helped his confidence.
“I think it really helped him in the Dallas game to make some plays and I think it really helped him to get away from those guys on that one route he took to the house – to really open it up,” Shanahan said. “That’s something he hasn’t had since his injury. I would assume that helped him because he showed he could do it and he did it in a game.”
Now he just needs to continue coping with the pain from the plantar’s plate.
“It’ll be going on for a while,” he said. “Just dealing with it and keep playing and keep pushing.”
…Left tackle Trent Williams (thigh) and corner DeAngelo Hall (ankle) were limited in practice. Linebacker London Fletcher (ankle) did not practice.
…Shanahan said there are plays he won’t run when Williams is limited, as he was Monday. Williams estimated he was around 70 percent healthy because of the deep thigh bruise.
“There are some plays we only do with him running because of how talented he is,” Shanahan said. “When he’s not like that, it takes a couple plays out of the game plan. [But] it doesn’t change me much. If he’s playing, we’ll assume he’s 100 percent.”
…Stopping Ray Rice will be a top priority Sunday. After receiving only 12 carries a week ago, look for Rice to be a bigger part of the offense. Of course, some in Baltimore say he should be an even bigger part.
“First of all, he’s a great football player, not just in the run, in the pass game, his route running, his pass receiving, his screens,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “In running the ball, you’ve got to be ready for spin moves, stiff arms. He’s got it all. He’s violent when he runs the ball. I love watching him run.”
The key to stopping Rice: knowing where he’s at all the time and gang tackle.
“One guy’s not getting it done,” Haslett said. “It’s not going to happen. You’ve got to have three to four guys getting to him and we’ve got to do a great job in that area.”