49ers Second Half Outlook Part I: The Offense
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With half of the San Francisco 49ers’ season now finished, it’s time to look at what the second half has in store. The Niners have plenty of positives to look forward to. Let’s go over some of the more exciting things coming the Niners way.
I may have mislabeled this section considering the remarkable amount of impact players that still need to return, so there may be a few sequels of be expected.
Currently the 49ers’ biggest deficiency is their passing game. Based purely on receiving yards, the 49ers are currently ranked last with 199.6 yards per game. Last! That means teams like Oakland, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Minnesota and Jacksonville, all of which have had questions and controversies at quarterback, have more receiving yards than the 49ers. With the best rushing offense in the league at 153.0 yards per game, it’s understandable why they accumulated fewer passing yards, but last in the league is cause for concern. Without a legitimate pass game, the 49ers will be hard-pressed to make late-game comebacks when needed. Lucky for Colin Kaepernick, three of his wide-receiver targets will be returning in the second half of the season.
The first receiver expected to see the game field is Mario Manningham. He might not be the savior the passing game needs, but it’s better than continuing with Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin functioning as your only reliable receivers. Manningham is recovering from a knee injury that resulted in two torn ligaments but everything coming from the 49ers camp is positive news. Reports on Manningham have him making his return after this current bye week. This is fantastic news for the 49ers’ fans who have struggled watching Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin try to fill the WR2 and WR3 spots. In 2013, they have combined for a paltry 14 receptions and 136 yards. In the first game alone, Boldin had 13 receptions for 208 yards. Having Manningham back will force opposing defenses to use less double teams on Boldin and keep defenses honest in the run game.
The second wide out expecting to make his return is Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target: Michael Crabtree. After suffering a complete tear to his Achilles in training camp, Crabtree’s 2013 season was in doubt. After weeks of rehab, Crabtree has been spotted at practice running and catching passes from trainers. Crabtree is still a few weeks away from returning, but a target date, given the good reports from the 49ers, is the middle of November, which means he could return by Week 11 or 12 against New Orleans and Washington respectively. Even if Crabtree returns in Week 12 against Washington, that gives the 49ers’ offense two dress rehearsals before the big showdown in Week 14 against Seattle. With three wide receivers plus the more-than-capable Vernon Davis holding down the tight end position, Colin Kaepernick must be itching to sling the ball and Frank Gore is pining for the day where he can run against a defense that isn’t stacking the box. It will be a tough task to stop a 49ers offense that has balance between the passing and running game.
The third receiver to return is Quinton Patton. He might be a relative unknown to casual 49ers fans but if he can perform to the standards expected from him, Patton will prove to be a tough weapon to cover. If you’re wondering what Patton is capable of, check out my article on why it’s time to incorporate Quinton Patton into the 49ers’ offense. Patton will provide Kaepernick with a receiver that can move the chains and can occasionally surprise a defense with a downfield threat. Although not expected to return until the final couple weeks of the season, this could provide the offense with one more weapon for defenses to account for.
With multiple weapons returning to the offense, expect big things in the second half. With a lethal combination of a bruising running game, capable of taking over at any given time, and a balanced passing attack waiting to blossom, defenses will struggle to find answers to Jim Harbaugh’s offensive giant.