By Ed Baylor: With wide receiver Michael Crabtree out of the lineup for what could be the entire season with a torn left Achilles, the 49ers have been looking at using one of their existing young players A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette to replace him. However, none of them have really looked like a solid replacement for what Crabtree brought to the team as the #1 receiver.
In a sign that the Niners aren’t too happy with using any of those guys for the spot, the Niners had tight end Vernon Davis practicing only at wide receiver during the 49ers mini-camp, according to the 49ers.pressdemocrat. What this suggests is that the 49ers may use the 6’3” 250 lb. Davis as the replacement for Crabtree rather than one of slender and not as strong young receivers.
The problem with Patton, Lockette and Jenkins is that they don’t have a lot of muscle on their upper bodies and they can roughed up by cornerbacks in coverage to prevent them from running good routes. With Vernon Davis, the cornerbacks can’t do this because he’s a lot stronger and heavier than them. Having Davis work against a cornerback sets up mismatches because Davis is incredibly fast in straight line running and hard to take down once he gets the ball.
Having Davis as the wide receiver will make it necessary for opposing teams to slide a safety over to his side of the field to help out on coverage or at least make sure that Davis doesn’t run over a small cornerback after he catches the ball.
The 49ers slot receiver on the other side of the field is the 6’3” 220 lb. Anquan Boldin, who could end up being the guy that gets most of the passes thrown to him this season. Having Boldin and Davis as their wide receivers would give the 49ers the biggest wide receivers in the NFL, and it’s going to be tough for defenses to stop them because they can go up high for passes and out-leap the smaller cornerbacks for the ball if need be.
Davis is huge at 250, but he arguably has the best straight line speed on the team. During the OTAs, Davis was the best deep threat on the team and that’s probably what gave the Niners the idea of using him as a wide receiver instead of tight end.
With David playing wide receiver, the 49ers would then use rookie Vance McDonald to be the starting tight end. At 6’5” 260, McDonald has the size to be a good blocker, and it’s already been established that he’s a really good receiver.