49ers 2009 Season Preview: Receivers, O-linemen Edition

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Wide Receivers

Remember on April 25th when it was time for the 49ers to select in the NFL draft at the tenth spot?  Remember thinking, Michael Crabtree is available! Draft Crabtree! Remember when it happened and we saw Crabtree holding up the 49ers jersey and we thought we finally had our heir apparent to Jerry Rice?  Remember when he signed with the team and reported to training camp on-time and…what a second, what happened?  Where is MCT…will he ever be a Niner…

Nobody but Crabtree himself can answer that.  With week 1 this Sunday I doubt the issue will be resolved soon.  So, until then no more mentioning Crabtree unless he signs or says he is sitting out the season.  It’s alright we don’t need him:

Isaac Bruce:  The ageless wonder is back after leading the 49ers in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last year.  Can he repeat last year’s effort? Chances are probably not but until when and if Crabtree signs Bruce is the leader of the receiving corps.  It will be interesting to see how Jimmy Raye uses Bruce and if Shaun Hill continues to look to Bruce as his number one target.

Josh Morgan:  This is the 49ers up-and-coming wide receiver.  He did not have a spectacular campaign last year (20 receptions, 319 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns) but he has shown the big-play making ability the 49ers have lacked since the days of T.O. Morgan will breakout this year and make himself a household name, but don’t expect much from him in the first three weeks of the season as he adjusts to being a full-time starter.

Brandon Jones:  The 49ers biggest free-agent signing this past off-season was overshadowed by the selection of another receiver in the draft.  Since then Jones has not made much noise.  Probably because he was not that big of a free-agent signing. To the 49ers however he was because he was one of a few players they signed to bolster the offense.  Jones was a number 3 receiver when he was with the Titians and it looks like he will be no higher than third on the 49ers depth chart.  We might see some big scoring plays from Jones this year but other than that is value will be minimal to the 49ers offense.  He is still recovering from shoulder surgery he had in August.

Jason Hill:  Hill to Hill, that was the story last year after Hill, the Shaun one, took over the starting job under center and he quickly found his favorite target  Hill, the Jason one.  He had his breakout game against the Cardinals last year when the 49ers failed to come from behind to pull out the win.  Hill will be listed as the number 3 or 4 receiver but if Morgan or Bruce falter, Hill has shown he has the skills to be a starting receiver.

Arnaz Battle:  The other ageless wonder on the 49ers receiving corp.  Okay, he is only entering his seventh season in the NFL but all seven have been with the 49ers roster so he seems much older.  Unlike Bruce though he will not see a lot of playing time unless the 49ers have multiple injuries at the position.  His job on the 49ers roster will be to mentor the young receiving corps while Bruce gets all the action.

Michael Spurlock: If not for the “Taser” formation (Raye’s version of the WildCat) he probably would not have made the 49ers roster.  It helps that he also returns kick-offs.

Vernon Davis:  It is all or nothing for Davis this year.  Had he been drafted later in the first-round or anytime in or after the second-round his lackluster play would not be that big of a deal.  But the 49ers drafted him with the sixth pick in 2006 and his career totals (103 receptions, 1,132 receiving yards,  9 touchdowns) look like a top-ten draft pick a tight end should have in a season.  Coming into his fourth season he HAS to prove he was worth the pick otherwise the 49ers again look like a laughing stock when it comes to picking offensive players with their first-pick.  Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye used TE Tony Gonzalez a lot when he was the Chiefs coordinator 1998-2000.  Davis will benefit from Raye’s game plan of running the football while using his tight end as a receiving threat.  Davis has bought into Raye’s play calling after having a successful preseason and training camp and he certainly has bought into Singletary even after that rocky start they had last year when Singletary sent Davis to the locker room during the game.

Delanie Walker:  Mostly will be used as a backup and in run blocking.  He is good at catching the football but don’t expect significant playing time for Walker.

Offensive line:

The 49ers gave up a league high 55 sacks last year.  I agree the 49ers pass protection was horrible last year but there were a lot of factors which was J.T. Duh!Sullivan who seemed like he was trying to hold onto the football until the quarter ended and Mike Martz and his offense which seems to try to kill every quarterback that has played in his system.  The line has improved this year and with Duh!Sullivan and Martz gone so there is no reason to think the 49ers will have the one of the better offensive lines in the league:

LT Joe Staley:  He has been the anchor on the line every since he was drafted by the 49ers in 2007.  Since then he has started all 32 games of his career.  In 2007 he started every game at right tackle as a rookie before moving to the other end of the line last year to replace the injury-prone Jonas Jennings. The 49ers awarded Staley for his hard work with a six-year contract extension that will keep him with the club through 2017.  Fat new contract and entering his third NFL season, he will be a named to the Pro-Bowl this year.

LG Adam Baas:  Baas played well in the nine games he started last year and we should expect more of the same from him this year as he is developing into a solid left guard.  The only thing that concerns me is him missing most of the preseason after tearing his right pectoral muscle.  Let’s hope he has fully recovered.

C Eric Heitmann: Another versatile lineman like Staley who can play multiple positions.  He has started 98 games for the 49ers at center, left guard and right guard.  The last two years he has laid claim as the starting center which he has played well enough to earn the 49ers best offensive lineman the last two years. After signing a contract extension that will keep him with the 49ers until 2011, Heitmann could join Staley on the Pro-Bowl roster this year.

RG Chilo Rachal:  The 49ers selected Rachal with their second pick in 2008 so this is the year he gets to show why he was a highly touted lineman.  The coaches on the 49ers think Rachal has great pass and rush blocking abilities and he showed some of that promise last year when Singletary had him start the last six games of the season.  He needs to show the 49er Faithful he can handle a full season as a starter.

LT Adam Snyder:  Free-agent Marvel Smith was suppose to challenge Snyder for the starting job in training camp but Smith had to retire due to persistent back injuries.  Now Snyder is the starter by default but he has started games before and been able to hold his own.  But there is something there that the coaches see in Snyder that make them uneasy about him.  What other reason would they have for bringing in Smith?  Then again the 49ers didn’t draft an offensive lineman that was a big need at the guard position.

Five Keys to Success:

1.  Vernon Davis, time to produce.  You can have all the muscles and athletic ability in the world but if you don’t show it in your receiving stats you are irrelevant.

2.  Josh Morgan will get out to a slow start but it is how he handles himself after the first couple games and the possibility of being benched if he does not produce mid-way through the season that will determine what type of receiver he develops into and how he fits into the 49ers plans. The potential is there and right now we need his potential to develop into playmaking abilities.

3.  So such of the 49ers success lies in the offensive linemen hands this season.  They will have to show it was not all their fault for the league high 55 sacks they gave up last year.  And if Raye wants to run the ball 60% of the time they need to play exceptionally well. No excuses, all of the starting o-line were on the roster last year.

4.  Joe Staley is showing why he has started every game since his rookie year.  If the rest of the lineman, especially Rachal, follow his lead the 49ers could be developing an impressive offensive line led by Staley.

5.   Bruce needs to stay healthy.  He has not been injury prone in his career but he is old as mold and fragile so the next big hit could be his last.  And if Crabtree is not on the roster the 49ers will be in trouble.

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Tags: 49ers 49ers 2009 Season Offensive Preview: Receivers Lineman Edition 49ers 2009 Training Camp 49ers Injuries 49ers Offensive Coordinator 49ers Quarterback 49ers Training Camp Alex Smith Arnaz Battle Brandon Jones Chilo Rachal Isaac Bruce J.T. O'Sullivan Jimmy Raye Joe Staley Josh Morgan Marvel Smith MCT Michael Crabtree Mike Martz Mike Singletary San Francisco 49ers Shaun Hill Vernon Davis

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