Sometimes, as fans, we tend to ignore the short comings of our teams and look at them through rose (or in this case red and gold) colored glasses. This is especially true when that team has won 27 games the last two seasons. In reality, things may not be what they seem and the talent could not be what it once was. Front offices and coaching staffs could have misjudged certain players or expected too much too soon from those coming back from injury.
For the 49ers, their current group of 49er wide receivers (Anquan Boldin aside) are an unproven group of NFL mediocrity that seems to be miscast as players who can make a difference on game day. Did we not see this coming? The more you look at the situation, it should have been obvious.
Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton make up the 49ers’ receiving corps beyond Boldin. Combined, the group has 10 catches for 93 yards and no touchdowns through three games. To put that in perspective, there are 20 tight ends and 12 running backs in the NFL that have as many or more receptions as the Niner’s number 2, 3, and 4 receivers do combined. Even worse, Williams has caught nine of those ball for 87 yards which means Moore and Patton have been virtually invisible.
It’s possible too much was expected out of Williams too soon. After all, he tore up his knee last November and did not play at all in the preseason. He needs time to work his way back into form and he may not be 100 percent all until 2014. Even if you give Williams the benefit of the doubt though, his past performance never gave the indication that he was anything more than a role player. He came into 2013 with only 35 career catches in 28 games which is an average of 1.25 per contest. When the 49ers had a depleted receiving corp during the 2011 playoffs, Williams could only manage 2 catches for 12 yards. While he could still turn it around, it’s likely he’s nothing more than a complementary piece and giving him extended snaps is only shining a light on his shortcomings.
Moore was always a strange case. He came to the 49ers as a special teams ace who only had 12 career catches under his belt. Yet not only did he play with the first teamers in the preseason, he also came out of the game (often after the first series) with them as well. Wouldn’t the 49ers want to see more from someone who only started two games in his three year career? Whatever he showed in training camp to warrant that kind of faith early on has not translated into the regular season.
As far as Patton, while he impressed in the preseason he is still a rookie who wasn’t drafted until the fourth round. The skill set is there and if Colin Kaepernick sees him in the corner of the end zone in Week 2 this could be a different conversation, but as of right now he has been shut out through three games. The 49ers should probably do more to get him involved early on (like a bubble screen or two) but they seem to hesitant to do so.
Given what’s been said above, expect to see Jonathan Baldwin make he 49ers debut soon and possibly as early as Week 4 against the Rams. Baldwin has size and speed and at the very least he may be someone who can stretch the field.
Whether it’s Baldwin or they decide to go outside the organization for help, the 49ers must address the situation and quickly. There is no guarantee Mario Manningham will be ready to play a large number of snaps when he is eligible to come off of the PUP list and by the time Michael Crabtree is healthy the season may be lost. To think, the 49ers could be out of it by November…who could have seen that coming?