49ers excited about explosive new offensive
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)
The San Francisco 49ers loaded up on explosive new weapons for offensive coordinator Greg Roman during the offseason. He's already having a blast deciding how to use them.
The 49ers put on full pads Sunday for the first time in training camp, and everywhere Roman looked, he saw newcomers who promise to add fresh dimensions to San Francisco's offense and what Roman can do with it this season.
Wide receivers Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins darted around catching passes. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James brought new bursts of power and speed out of the backfield.
All figure to have an impact this year in an upgraded San Francisco offense that finished 26th last season in the NFL rankings, lagging behind the team's outstanding defensive and special teams units that carried the 49ers to the NFC championship game.
Now it's up to Roman to determine who goes where and who does what. He's letting the competition that's playing out in practice decide for him.
''There's definitely always some competitive excitement when you start thinking about how this is all going to look together and how it's going to piece together,'' Roman said Sunday. ''What's going to be best for our team, and we're trying to create depth at the same time. Adding those news guys, it definitely adds a different dimension to things.''
Roman is getting a different perspective now that the competition has gone to the next level after the 49ers began summer camp with two days of practices without pads.
There is a certain urgency for San Francisco to take the next step as an offense and improve on last year's performance when the team struggled in the red zone and ranked 29th in the league in passing yards.
That's why practically all of San Francisco's top offseason acquisitions play offensive skill positions. Roman and coach Jim Harbaugh raved about all the newcomers during the team's spring workouts. But this stage of summer camp is when the true evaluations really begin.
''It's real football now and you start to get an indication of things,'' Roman said. ''We're not running around in our underwear. Now everybody reveals themselves on the field because of the contact. This is when you really, really start to get to evaluate players. It's very exciting, and we'll evaluate it as we go.''
There's a noticeable upgrade in team speed provided by Moss and Manningham, who joined the team as free agents, and Jenkins and James, San Francisco's first two selections in the NFL draft.
Moss already is being considered the team's No. 1 receiver alongside holdover starter Michael Crabtree, San Francisco's leading receiver last season with 73 catches. Manningham appears to have the inside track as the No. 3 receiver. And while Jenkins at this point is just battling to find his niche in the rotation, Harbaugh made it clear what the team's expectations are for its first-round draft pick.
Harbaugh made an unscheduled and unusual trip to the podium during Sunday's interview session, a move he felt was necessary because of a perceived slow start by Jenkins and some criticism the young receiver has received recently in the media.
''To update you on the status of A.J. Jenkins and that topic,'' Harbaugh began. ''A.J. Jenkins was an outstanding football player before he got here, and his progress has been very, very good and exceeded expectations. For those scribes, pundits, so-called experts who have gone as far as to say that he's going to be a bust . should just stop. They're making themselves look more foolish. I'll go on record: A.J. Jenkins is going to be an outstanding football player.''
There certainly is room for improvement among San Francisco's wide receivers, who combined had just one catch for 3 yards in January's overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC title game.
The new firepower at the position could also help the team in other areas, as will the addition of Jacobs, James and free-agent fullback Rock Cartwright in the backfield.
That trio could help take some of the pressure and workload off three-time Pro Bowl back Frank Gore, who last season became the franchise's all-time leading career rusher but also saw his production wane as the season progressed.
The 49ers are expecting the new weapons to also complement talented tight end Vernon Davis, the team's top receiving threat of recent seasons. Despite remaining productive, Davis has seen his receiving numbers decline the past two years after his breakout Pro Bowl season of 2009.
''They're just all tremendous talents that will bring a lot of value to the team and will really help us,'' Davis said. ''To me, the more help we can get, the better off we'll be, and I'm all about it. It's a big deal because all those guys are extremely dangerous weapons that we'll be able to use. It will help me out to probably get open more than ever, and I'm sure we (tight ends) can help them (receivers) out as well getting those guys open.''
That's the way the 49ers are hoping it will play out this summer. Through the opening days of training camp, nobody's complaining.
''The guys that we brought in are doing a great job,'' Roman said. ''It's nothing but positive. I'm sure the offense will be better by the additions and what they can bring to the table.''