The San Francisco 49ers tired not to show too much panic due to the injury of Michael Crabtree, seeing Vernon Davis lineup as a wide receiver instead of his original Tight End position during the workouts probably tells quite a lot about what the team thinks of their younger guys at the position.
With Crabtree out for at least half the season, the Niners suddenly started looking at their depth chart, and saw that behind Anquan Boldin, acquired via trade from the Baltimore Ravens, there isn’t much to be hopeful about. A.J. Jenkins and Ricardo Lockette are going to develop, while Mario Manningham is coming back from his injury, but that’s not what a team looking to return to the Super Bowl wants to have as targets for the quarterback.
Vernon Davis was highly underused once Colin Kaepernick became the starting quarterback, in the form of catching one or two passes per game during the second half of the season, before things slightly got better. Maybe it’s the designed of plays that keeps Davis blocking instead of running routes, but it might be something Kaepernick has an issue with – throwing to a certain area of the field, not to mention really liking getting the ball to Crabtree.
But Boldin isn’t going to run the routes Crabtree did, and he needs a deep threat to make himself more useful, drawing less and less attentions in his under routes, where his size and great hands make up for his lack of speed. The Niners weren’t going to get that from Jenkins and Lockette, who have a combined 2 catches in their short NFL careers.
Davis is the answer. Alex Smith loved to throw to him, targeting him at least five times each game, something that hardly happened during the Kaepernick “era.” And once again, things are going to change.
Davis is going to step out of his run-blocking use, probably his strongest feature, and start lining up across the field – because Kaepernick doesn’t have any better targets, and because without him drawing attention to himself, the whole read-option scheme and Anquan Boldin’s presence have no chance of being nearly as effective as they were last season.