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
”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
”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