Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports


Packers Game May Bring 49ers Wide Receiver Situation into Clearer Focus

Anwar Jamison
Aug 26, 2016 at 9:57 AM



The San Francisco 49ers wide receivers have absorbed their fair share of scrutiny in discussions regarding the team's potential this season. Many expected general manager Trent Baalke to draft a wide receiver early in this past April's draft, but that did not occur. The team waited until the 6th round to grab Aaron Burbridge from Michigan State, and also added Stanford's Devon Cajuste and California's Bryce Treggs as undrafted free agents. Treggs has since been sidelined with an MCL injury that's being described as week-to-week. The biggest wide receiver acquisition of this off season, Canadian Football League standout Eric Rogers, tore his ACL early in training camp and will spend the year rehabbing that injury.

With quarterback Colin Kaepernick making his preseason debut against Green Bay, it will be interesting to see whether or not that affects the performance of the wide receivers. Against the Houston Texans, quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed 4 of 10 passes for 63 yards. He was 1 of 5 when targeting wide receivers. The only completion to a wide receiver was a screen pass to Bruce Ellington. In the Week 2 game against the Broncos, Gabbert finished 6 of 9 for 69 yards. Again, only one of those pass completions went to a wide receiver, and it was another screen pass: this time to DeAndrew White, Ellington's replacement in the slot. He finished 1 of 2 on passes targeting wide receivers.

So, in six series, over two preseason games, Gabbert has not completed a pass to a wide receiver that traveled beyond the line of scrimmage. Two completed screen passes are the extent of the involvement of the wide receivers in the offense over those two games. Are the wide receivers not getting separation and providing open targets? Is Gabbert's reputation for playing it safe and looking primarily for tight ends and running backs underneath causing him to miss open wide receivers? Those questions should be answered to some degree with the return of Kaepernick, who has always demonstrated a willingness to take shots down the field when they present themselves.

What appears to be clear about the 49ers group of receivers are the top four: Torrey Smith, Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton and Jerome Simpson. Behind them are the aforementioned rookies, along with a mixture of unproven, yet intriguing, prospects: DeAndre Smelter, DeAndrew White, Dres Anderson and DiAndre Campbell. Of that group, their size stands out as the most desirable attribute: all are at least 6 feet tall, and Smelter, Anderson and Campbell are 6'2". White has earned kudos for performing well in the difficult slot role during Ellington's recovery from a minor ankle injury sustained against the Houston Texans.

Prior to the Broncos game, Chip Kelly spoke candidly about this desire to see the young receivers demonstrate their ability on a more consistent basis. "What we do need to see is consistency. We haven't really seen a ton of that right now. We've seen them flash, which is awesome because you know what they can do, but it's being consistent not only on a daily basis but really, on a play-to-play basis, that you can count of them."

Of the more established veterans, Torrey Smith is the most entrenched in his position. Jerome Simpson, the elder statesman of the group has earned praise from his teammates for his energy and athleticism. "He has more energy than anyone on the field, every single day," Smith added. "He can run a 50-yard go route, sprint back, line up and be ready to do it again." Simpson was suspended for the first six games of the 2015 season and when he returned he was plagued by drops and inconsistent play.

Ellington seems to have the most upside and his teammates have echoed those sentiments in training camp. "Bruce Ellington, that's one guy that's hard to cover," 49ers cornerback Jimmy Ward said. "Bruce is very shifty, and he has great speed." This coaching staff seems to have embraced Ellington more than the prior two regimes and he seems poised to get his chance to finally realize his potential.

Patton is the wildcard of the bunch. During his three year career, he has spent most of his time backing up established veterans like Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Stevie Johnson. He has flashed potential, at times, but also committed blunders at important times when he was given a chance. The fact that Kelly and his coaching staff immediately elevated him into the role of starter means that they like what they've seen from him. Of all of the receivers, he would appear to have the biggest opportunity in front of him if he performs well enough to prove that he's worthy of the position.

The effectiveness of this group of receivers will not be determined based on one single preseason game. But with teams playing their starters for an extended period of time, this will be the group's greatest chance, up to this point, to prove that they can perform at a high level without the addition of a high-priced free agent or early-round draft pick.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


2 Comments

  • mbniner
    Injuries to Rogers, Smelzer, Treggs and now Ellington are really hurting. Also worrisome to me is our anointing of T. Smith as our No. 1 WR. I always considered him to be a classic No. 2 speed WR. The question is, who is our No. 1? Right now I don't have the foggiest. We may be running a lot more TE-heavy formations. People are blaming Gabbert for not targeting WRs but they have to get separation and actually catch the ball when it's delivered (just ask Driskel!). I don't see a trade or a roster cut player out there that can fill the role. Chip will have to have a WR-by-committee approach and use scheme to get people open.
    Aug 27, 2016 at 1:39 PM
    0
  • Twitch27
    I know it's only been 2 preseason games so far but Gabbert being 2 of 7 when targeting his WR's seems rather alarming. Especially when neither of those completions were beyond the LOS. While it's great that he is making the right reads out there, he will continue to be just a serviceable back up if he don't start making those big boy throws. If Kaepernick doesn't step up this year, it's looking like we maybe targeting a QB early in next years draft.
    Aug 26, 2016 at 2:57 PM
    0

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



Pro Football Focus ranks Trent Williams No. 8 among offensive tackles

By David Bonilla
Aug 3, 2020

Pro Football Focus ranked the top 25 offensive tackles in the NFL. For the San Francisco 49ers, the starters anchoring the offensive line are veteran Trent Williams, who replaces the retired Joe Staley after a trade from Washington, and third-year player and a former No. 9 overall draft pick, Mike McGlinchey. Only one of those two ended up on the ranking — Williams, who came in at No. 8. "In the wake of Joe Staley's retirement, the 49ers swooped in and replaced him with another top-10 tackle in Williams," wrote Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus. "He didn't play a snap for Washington last year, but he was the model of excellence as a pass-blocker in

Read the Full Article


Pro Football Focus names George Kittle among two top-tier tight ends in fantasy football

By David Bonilla
Aug 3, 2020

You can't discuss the NFL's best tight end without including George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers. He has recorded back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving, getting into the end zone 10 times during that span, and set a new NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2018 with 1,377. Kittle is pretty good. So is Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs. The two find themselves listed as the only Tier-1 players within Pro Football Focus' rankings of the best fantasy football tight ends. The tier is reserved for players who possess elite talent and utilization. "Both Kelce and Kittle are the consensus top two

Read the Full Article


49ers, NFL teams may have to begin training camps with 80-man rosters

By David Bonilla
Jul 21, 2020

The San Francisco 49ers and the other 31 NFL teams across the league may each be allowed only 80 total players on their roster at the start of training camp. That was one of several updates provided by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network that came from a call on Tuesday with the NFL Players Association. Right now, the maximum number of players allowed on each team's roster is 90. That means each will need to make some cuts to get down to the lower roster limit before training camp begins. Some other updates from Pelissero include the NFL's offer to eliminate the entire preseason leading to the 2020 regular season, a push for a longer ramp-up period in training camp, opt-out conditions for those who prefer not to play during the coronavirus pandemic, and money

Read the Full Article

Featured

More Featured Stories

More by Anwar Jamison

All Articles by Anwar Jamison

More Articles

All Articles
Share 49erswebzone