With the season opener less than four days away the San Francisco 49ers are gearing up for their week 1 matchup against the Packers in Green Bay. The Packers are known for their prolific passing offense, while the 49ers, at least in recent seasons, are not known at all for their passing game. A lot of this had to do with Alex Smith not playing up to the standards of a No. 1 overall pick and previous coaching staffs. With Jim Harbaugh and his coaches on board last season, Smith improved not only his individual play on the field, but also elevated the 49ers offense to more than just a running game. Still, the 49ers struggled late in the season and in the playoffs with their passing game, as the receivers were either ineffective or hurt. This past offseason, 49ers GM Trent Baalke recognized the 49ers shortcomings at wide receiver, signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, while also drafting A.J. Jenkins in the first-round. On Tuesday, the 49ers released their depth chart for the game on Sunday, with Moss and Michael Crabtree as the starters at wide receiver.
Outside of the 49ers Faithful circle, not many other NFL fans believe a receiver, who is 35 years old, was retired last season and burned the bridges of the last three teams he was on (all three in one season in 2010), can produce anything other than distractions on or off the field. When you throw in the fact this receiver is Randy Moss, most would probably say his reign as a starting receiver will not last long. Because of this Niner fans can see why other fans don’t expect much from Moss this season. Heck, there are probably Niner fans who don’t think Moss will be of any good to the 49ers offense either.
During OTA’s and training camp, Moss showed he still had the skills to be a good wide out in the NFL, but that was at practice, without pads. In the preseason games, Moss barely played and only had three catches for 24 yards. The 49ers ran a very vanilla offense, especially with the passing game, so this only added fuel to the fire of those who think Moss will be unproductive this season.
Harbaugh and Baalke, however, would not have brought Moss in if they didn’t think he could be productive for the 49ers. Also, if they felt he wasn’t ready or good enough to be a starter, they would not start him. Harbaugh is not one to experiment with his offense. If he says Moss is the best one on the depth chart to start opposite Crabtree, than he is the best man for the job, regardless of anything that has happened in the past or his age. If he was washed up and could no longer help the 49ers, Harbaugh would admit the mistake of bringing him in and would have moved on already.
Moss has already been a huge help to the 49ers by setting examples on how to prepare and to be a good receiver for the other young wide outs on the roster, particularly with Crabtree. Moss has been sitting in the front row at offense meetings, an example that has been followed by Crabtree, Jenkins and other receivers like Kyle Williams. If this is all Moss contributes and Crabtree turns into the star receiver we all thought he is capable of, than that alone was enough to bring Moss on board. The 49ers are not just banking on Moss as the No. 2 receiver. They have a backup plan in case anything happens, on or off the field, with Moss and the team has to cut their ties with him at any point in the season.
Something tells me this won’t be the case. Moss is about to embark on a season that will go down, not as a career year numbers wise, but the year he proved all the doubters wrong, whether they thought he was washed up and/or his attitude would cause the 49ers to sever ties with him. This will also be the season the 49ers passing offense reemerges after years of being dormant, with Moss playing an important role.