Originally posted by Wubbie:
I didn't know whether this should go into the Draft or Free Agency sub-forums, but if it belongs there... mods, feel free to move this thread or merge it.
But in looking at a lot of people talk about team needs, do we really need a vertical threat, per se? I've seen names like Stephen Hill, Lee Evans, Mike Wallace, etc. etc. being tossed around, but I don't think that's a problem among our current group of receivers and tight ends.
Vernon Davis is one of the best deep threat TEs in the league. And while they're not burners like a Mike Wallace or Calvin Johnson, we've seen Michael Crabtree, Delanie Walker, Kyle Williams get behind opposing defenses. They're not consistent deep threats, but I'm just saying they have that capability and they're not plodders.
With Manningham and Moss added to the team, I think we have a decent potential to go vertical. And we still have Ted Ginn, who defenses know will only run deep patterns. We're not going to be this explosive aerial attack like the Saints, but we're going to hit some big plays here and there with our current personnel.
To be honest, I think the BIGGEST need is a possession receiver with great hands that will move the chains on third downs. The Cowboys have it in Jason Witten, a TE, on third down. The Patriots' starting WR, Wes Welker, does it from the slot and is excellent at working underneath to convert third downs.
We were a few plays away from the Super Bowl against the Giants. The problem, in my opinion, wasn't that we couldn't beat the defense vertically. The problem was that we had, what, one reception from our receivers? We HAD the big plays with Vernon Davis, but not the consistent passing game that comes from "high-percentage" short/intermediate passes to our wide receivers. Michael Crabtree was absolutely gobbled up with minimal man coverage, and that was EMBARRASSING, for a guy who is supposed to be so highly rated.
To stop the 49ers passing game last season, you can do it if you have a cornerback that's strong in press coverage and a good pass rush. Bump Michael Crabtree, while containing Vernon Davis, get a good pass-rush, and have decent tackling. Alex Smith, while I love the guy, is a fairly conservative passer. Take away his primary options and force him to check down all day (which he will) and that's how you thwart 49er third down attempts.
I know Hines Ward retired, but I felt his play-style as a receiver was more in line with what we needed, rather than a Mike Wallace or a Stephen Hill.
I'm interested to see how we close out the draft and free agency.
Good thoughts and analysis.
I agree that we need a big, physical weapon who can consistently go inside and use his body on quick slants. That is a staple of the WCO. And that's what we run. Remember Rice and Taylor. These two weren't exactly burners but they were VERY quick off the LOS (where Rice states the battle is won/lost - a weakness of Crabtree like you alluded to). But they could beat you off the LOS and were quicker then they were fast but always had great body positioning and were the best at RAC. Period. Plus they complimented each other perfectly. That said, in today's game, if you don't have a vertical threat (see Ted Ginn in the NFCCG), teams will play tighter up at the LOS, be more physical in the first 5 yards and play down hill run blitzing. Remember, we only took 3 shots deep that game and 2 went for TD's and the 3rd could have been - both with our two burners in Davis/Williams. I think we have a ton of speed now with Ginn, Manningham, Moss and VD. Now we need to get that possession receiver and his name is Fleener. Period. You add in two speed/possession receivers in Davis/Fleener with consistent speed to beat teams deep in Moss, Manningham and Ginn, now you have underneath specialists in Crabtree/Williams. That's three, diverse ways to attack a defense using the WCO in the modern game. Equally important, if not THE most important, it backs the defense off the LOS, pulls off the 8 and 9-man fronts and buys Alex time (a rarity) and creates tons of room for Gore/Hunter/Jacobs inside for the running game and out in the flats.
Fleener, to me, is the key ingredient we are missing (along with a stellar blocking OL) b/c of his versatility (traditional TE or flank him out wide), height, body control and big target inside a the RZ and on 3rd downs.
[ Edited by NCommand on Apr 17, 2012 at 8:46 AM ]