There is a lot of buzz around the 49ers. Many observers are clamoring for them to add another wide receiver before the trade deadline. The 49ers should sit tight, they already have their number two wide receiver. His name is Vernon Davis.
Throughout the offseason there were reports of Davis working with the receiver group. On Sunday against the Cardinals we saw that work pay off. Davis was on the field for 27 of Colin Kaepernick's 29 pass attempts, and lined up as a traditional tight end with his hand down in the dirt, only 6 times.
The 49ers offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, did a nice job of moving Davis around the formation to get the matchup that the 49ers wanted for Davis. Here are four examples:
- Roman sends Adam Snyder in to play TE, along with Daniel Kilgore who is in his usual move blocker role. Davis is lined up as a wing outside of Snyder. This causes Jerraud Powers to get matched up one on one with Davis, a matchup they want. The result: Davis beats Powers to the post and catches a 61 yard touchdown.
- Roman sends in Daniel Kilgore. The 49ers shift into a spread formation with Kilgore lined up as the wide receiver with Davis in the slot. This forces the Cardinals to move Powers inside one on one with Davis, while Karlos Dansby goes out to cover Kilgore. The result: Davis beats Powers on a corner route for a 28 yard completion.
- Roman lines Davis as a wide receiver on the right side of the formation. They get a one on one matchup with Powers, and Davis easily beats him on a quick post for a 12 yard completion.
- On the next play Roman lines Davis up as a wide receiver on the right side of the formation again, this time they get a one on one matchup with safety Yeremiah Bell. Davis beats Bell on a 9 route and Kaepernick throws a perfect pass for a 35 yard touchdown.
Davis ended the day with a team high 11 targets, and with only 1 exception he was the correct receiver for Kaepernick to throw the ball to.
This game was an example of Roman and the 49ers offensive staff using creativity to get their best player favorable matchups that he can win, and sticking with it.
This kind of creativity eliminates the need for the 49ers to spend future draft picks in a trade. Add to that, the fact they have Mario Manningham set to resume practice today which puts him in position to rejoin the team the week after the bye, and Michael Crabtree expected to return at some point prior to the end of the regular season and they are set at the position. Even if Manningham and Crabtree are slightly under 100%, their relationship and trust with Colin Kaepernick should have a positive impact on the 49ers passing game.
While waiting for their receivers to return, it is up to Roman and his staff to stay creative. Only two games to go.
I want to mention an example of how Kaepernick and the 49ers offense evolved throughout the game. Below is an example of Kaepernick doing a great job of making the necessary adjustments and making a big time throw at a big moment in the game.
With 1:30 left in the 2nd quarter the 49ers had a 1st and 10 on their own 27. Kyle Williams was lined up in the right slot with Tyrann Mathieu over him. At the snap the Cardinals sent a 6 man blitz, including Mathieu which left Williams uncovered. Kaepernick missed the blitz read and threw to Boldin instead who was well covered by Patrick Peterson and the ball was knocked away.
Later in the game, on the 18 play drive that would put the game away, the 49ers faced a 3rd and 7 on their own 27. Kyle Williams was again lined up in the slot, and Mathieu was lined up over him. Just like in the 2nd quarter the Cardinals sent a 6 man blitz including Mathieu. This time Kaepernick read the blitz and hit Williams quick for a 14 yard completion to extend the drive.