How 49ers’ ‘positionless’ offense will affect the 2019 roster?

San Francisco 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /
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SANTA CLARA, CA – NOVEMBER 12: Kyle Juszczyk #44 of the San Francisco 49ers is tripped up as he rushes with the ball against the New York Giants during their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

What a “positionless” offense means

So, I’ve been going on and on about this positionless offense, but it’s time to really dig into what I mean.

Football, like all sports, is based off matchups. It’s why 6-foot-5 wide receivers or players with top-end speed are typically players who make big impacts on games.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

But there are other, more-nuanced matchups that come from positions.

For example, when you watch a football game, you typically see a cornerback matched up on a wide receiver. But when a tight end lines out wide, defenses usually counter with a linebacker, who’s too slow, or a corner/safety who’s too small. Same thing applies when a running back lines out wide, or when a wide receiver can enter the backfield. These types of matchups are part of the reason why Kyle Juszczyk is so impactful as a fullback.

Now, as Kyle Madson of Niners Wire laid out:

"“Positionless” is the phrase du jour for describing what the 49ers are building on offense. They’re stocking up on players who allow them to vary their play calls and formations without ever changing the personnel. That layer of unpredictability is potentially deadly in a league where opposing coaches feast on tendencies."

With this new setup for the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan can go uptempo and never have the same formation the entire drive.

For example, a formation with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, George Kittle and Juszczyk in one play could be 31 personnel (three running backs, one tight end) and in another play, be in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end), so on and so forth.

What this essentially does is force the matchup issue. If the Niners run out with this player grouping, teams would most likely counter with a run-heavy defense. That’s a win for the 49ers offense, before the play even begins.

The addition of Jalen Hurd furthers this idea. A player who’s as tall as a tight end, used to play running back in college and was drafted at wide receiver is exactly the matchup nightmare the 49ers wanted. Running backs can play wide receiver, wide receivers can play running back, it creates a new way to build a roster.