In the 49ers’ Week 14 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Vernon Davis caught two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown. All of that production came on San Francisco’s final drive of the half. Considering that Davis was only targeted one other time in the game, it’s no coincidence that drive was the only one in which the 49ers scored a touchdown.
Davis is the most explosive player the team has in the passing game, yet he is often an afterthought in that regard. In previous seasons, the team was winning and moving the ball, so the idea of not using Davis as much could be swept under the rug. That’s not the case in 2013. The 49ers rank dead last in the NFL in total passing yards at 2318 and have the fewest first downs through the air with 114. They need Davis and the production he brings more than ever.
Just how valuable is he?
In 2013, Davis has played 12 of the teams 13 games. He was out with a hamstring injury in Week 3 and 49ers were only able to score seven points and gain 139 yards in total passing. In the 12 games he has played, the degree to which the team has featured him has greatly impacted their offensive performance. In games in which Davis has been targeted more than five times, the 49ers are 5-0 and are averaging just under 32 points per game. Davis, himself, has 498 yards and six touchdowns in those five contests. In the other seven games, Davis has been targeted five times or less and the team is 4-3 while averaging about 22 points per game. Davis only has 228 yards.
It’s imperative for offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who has come under fire this season for his ultra conservative game plans, to get Davis more involved. Featuring the tight end will also help his struggling young quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, to put up more prolific numbers. In the two games Kaepernick has targeted Davis nine or more times, he has 664 yards passing (332 per game) and five touchdowns (four of which went to Davis). In his other 11 games, Kaepernick has 1823 yards (165 per game) with 11 touchdowns. Overall, Davis has caught 11 of the quarterbacks 16 touchdown throws this season.
The 49ers have three games remaining this season and, barring a collapse, should be in the playoffs. Where they go from there depends largely on whether or not they can find a groove offensively. While Anquan Boldin has been terrific at moving the chains and the return of Michael Crabtree will help immensely, it’s Davis who the team needs for big plays. Let’s just hope Greg Roman and company remember that as well.