49ers counting on deep receiving corps in 2010

When Alex Smith drops back to pass these days, the quarterback

sees the most talented and promising collection of wide receivers

since he joined the San Francisco 49ers five years ago.

That’s quite a difference from the unsettled group Smith has

worked with since he became the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick in

2005, and it’s the reason the 49ers are confident their passing

attack this season can lift an offense that has been among the

NFL’s worst over the past six years.

For the first time in his career, Smith came to training camp

this week with the same two starting wideouts who lined up beside

him last year: Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan.

There also is plenty of potential in other candidates competing

for roles in the receiver rotation.

”It’s fun being a quarterback and having all those weapons

outside,” Smith said. ”There’s a lot of possibilities there. We

have a lot of versatility and a lot of different guys that are

capable of a lot of different things.”

The optimism begins with Crabtree, who is asserting himself as

the team’s No. 1 receiver in his first training camp with the


The No. 10 overall draft pick in 2009, Crabtree didn’t join the

49ers until early October because of a contract stalemate and

missed the first five games of the season. But he became a starter

as soon as he hit the field and was the team’s best wideout by the

end of the season. Crabtree led NFL rookies with an average of 56.8

receiving yards per game.

Now Crabtree looks like a skilled veteran ready to take the next

step. He catches everything in sight and runs smooth, precise

routes that make him stand out.

”I’m a lot more comfortable now,” Crabtree said. ”I know

where I’m playing and I’ve got a feel for the game with the whole

concept of the offense and having a full offseason. I really know

what I’m doing and I feel good. That’s the main thing.”

Third-year veteran Morgan starts opposite Crabtree, and the pair

promise to give San Francisco a set of big, productive starting

wideouts well into this decade. Morgan started 15 games last season

and led 49ers wideouts with 52 receptions. Crabtree had 48


The 49ers have seen a slew of veteran receivers come and go over

the past six years in an attempt to upgrade this group. Veterans

such as Johnnie Morton, Antonio Bryant, Darrell Jackson and Ashley

Lelie all had one-year stints with the Niners during that period

but failed to provide the continuity and production they were


Those receivers worked in an offensive scheme that changed from

one year to the next. The 49ers had seven offensive coordinators in

seven seasons before Jimmy Raye broke that string by returning in

2010 for his second year calling the plays.

”That’s definitely paying off,” Morgan said. ”We’ve come to

the point with some stuff we don’t even need to go over. Last year,

we’d talk about it, then we’d have to walk through it, and then rep

it. Now we all know what we’re talking about, so we can just do


Head coach Mike Singletary already has mentioned multiple times

since camp began that he is pleased with the progress of his

offense. Much of that has to do with the way Smith is collaborating

with his familiar wideouts and connecting with deep threats Ted

Ginn and Brandon Jones.

The 49ers traded for Ginn during the offseason and are looking

for a breakout this season from Jones after giving him a $16.6

million deal in free agency last year. Jones broke a bone in his

shoulder early in training camp last year and finished the season

with just one reception.

Raye has had no problem working Ginn and Jones into his playbook

this summer.

”We’re excited about both of them,” Raye said. ”(Ginn) has

come into this training camp and he’s been outstanding. If he

continues to improve the way he is, we will be very pleased.

Brandon’s situation has changed from this time a year ago because

the people in the lines are different. But he’s working hard,

having a good camp, and hopefully that will spill over into his


Smith, coming off his best season, also has Pro Bowlers around

him in running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis. Gore had

52 receptions last season, and Davis led the 49ers with 78

receptions for 965 yards while tying the NFL record for touchdown

receptions by a tight end with 13.

San Francisco has finished 26th or worse in the NFL rankings for

total offense five of the past six seasons. The 49ers ranked 27th

last year.

”It’s not only Crabtree, it’s also Vernon, Frank and myself and

others,” Morgan said. ”There are so many weapons in our offense

that everything is just going to open up. We’re just in attack mode

this year. You’re going to have to stop one of us, so you’re going

to have to pick your poison.”

Notes: The 49ers said LB Scott McKillop underwent an MRI exam on

his injured left knee and that he has a torn patellar tendon and

torn anterior cruciate ligament. McKillop was hurt in Wednesday

afternoon’s practice.