The conventional wisdom for the San Francisco 49ers replacing wide receiver Michael Crabtree was having one of the young receivers step up to give the offense another reliable target. The 49ers still expect one of the young receivers, like A.J Jenkins, Kyle Williams, Quiton Patton or Ricardo Lockette, to move up the depth chart, but don’t be surprised if you also see Vernon Davis lining up as a wide out during the regular season.
At the 49ers training camp that kicked off last week, Davis has been seen lining up at wide receiver with the first-team offense. Davis’ size, speed and athleticism make it hard for opposing defenses to successfully defend him. Having him line up at wide receiver would pose even more headaches for defensive coordinators, because cornerbacks would likely be tasked with defending Davis because of his speed.
I’m willing to step up and do whatever they ask me to do. They’ve been having me line up at wide receiver, pretty much all over the place. It’s a good thing that I get the opportunity to work with those guys because it not only helps me at the wide receiver position, it also helps me at the tight end position. My feet get quicker, my route-running is better.
One of the many concerns for the 49ers offense after Crabtree went down was the connection he and Colin Kaepernick established after the quarterback took over the starting job from Alex Smith. Crabtree was Kaepernick’s primary target, while Davis took a backseat in the offense. With Smith at quarterback, Davis saw some of his best numbers of his career.
In the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, Davis’ numbers improved and he again became an integral part of the offense. All thanks to the chemistry he and Kaepernick slowly established. In the NFC Championship game, he recorded five receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown. In the Super Bowl, the tight end had six catches for 104 yards. On Sunday, Davis explained what had changed:
Experience. You saw Colin developing into a great quarterback, and you saw the rest of the guys, including myself, following him and figuring him out. Getting the timing down, just figuring him out as a person and a quarterback.
Davis said he played some time at wide receiver in high school, but he did not play at the position at the University of Maryland and so far not in the NFL. If there is any tight end in the league who is capable of successfully making the transition to wide receiver, it’s Davis. I cannot wait to see the damage Davis will inflict on opposing defenses when he lines up at wide receiver this season.