49ers midseason grades: Offense passes, has more work to do

The San Francisco 49ers head into their bye week at exactly the midway point of the season. After eight games, the 6-2 Niners are where most expected them to be record wise although possibly not in the standings. They trail the 7-1 Seattle Seahawks by one game in the NFC West. While there were some early trials, the 49ers have bounced back with a vengeance and are currently riding a five game winning streak in which they have outscored their opponents 174-61. Below, we take a look at how the offense has graded out so far in 2013.

Quarterback: B-

The strong play Colin Kaepernick has shown recently bumps his grade up. Kaepernick started out the season torching the Green Bay Packer to the tune of 412 yards through the air and three touchdown passes, but then struggled in three of his next four games. Taking out Week 1, Kaepernick is averaging 167 yards passing a game and has six touchdown passes and five interceptions. The bottom line though, is he has been efficient of late and has helped lead his team to a 6-2 record. Kaepernick has also begun running again, gaining 122 yards over the last two weeks and scoring three touchdowns. He had only run for 172 yards in the first six games and did not score. The arrow is pointing up for Kaepernick during the second half of the season as he will get major pieces of the puzzle back when Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree return from injury.

Running back: A

Through Week 8, the 49ers lead the NFL in rushing attempts (270), rushing yards (1224), and rushing touchdowns (15). San Francisco re-committed itself to the power running game after a 1-2 start that was due partly to abandoning their run first philosophy. As they tried to get back to who they are, the team found it’s way by giving the ball to Frank Gore. Gore finds himself in the midst of one of his best seasons at age 30. He is on pace for over 1,200 yards (which would be the third time in three years he’s done that under Harbaugh) and 14 touchdowns. Beyond Gore, Kendall Hunter has done a good job as a change of pace back with 4.9 yards per carry and three touchdowns of his own. Anthony Dixon has done well in short yardage with two touchdowns and strong special teams play. Fullback Bruce Miller has been a nice role player in a struggling passing game as he is third on the team with 13 receptions and 158 yards receiving.

Wide Receiver: C

The only reason this group does not get an F is the play of Anquan Boldin. Boldin has 38 catches for 551 yards and been a safety blanket for Kaepernick. Other than Boldin, the wide outs have been a train wreck. San Francisco’s next four leading receivers have combined for 16 receptions and 142 yards in eight games. The next leading wide receiver after Boldin is Kyle Williams who only has 11 grabs and is averaging less than 10 yards per catch. The group will look completely different in the coming weeks as Manningham and Crabtree will make their returns but the 49ers are lucky to be where they are considering the performances opposite Boldin.

Tight end: A

When healthy this season, Vernon Davis has been dominant. In seven games (he missed Week 3 with a hamstring injury), the versatile tight end has averaged 17.9 yards per reception and has been on the receiving end of seven of Kaepernick’s nine touchdown passes. Davis is on pace for the first 1,000 yard season of his career and is averaging 74.0 yards per game. If not for Frank Gore, he could easily be considered the team’s first half MVP. While Davis’ play gives this group an A on it’s own, there has to be some disappointment in the production of rookie Vance McDonald. The second round pick has only caught six passes and has failed to distinguish himself as a viable target. 

Offensive line: A –

The offensive line looked like a fish out of water the first three weeks of the season when the 49ers were running the ball frequently from the shotgun formation. Over the first three games, San Francisco ran for 305 yards (87 of those came from Kaepernick running for his life against Seattle) which averages out to 101.6 per game. They only had two touchdowns in the span. During the current five game winning streak, they have rushed for 919 yards (183.8 per game) and have 13 touchdowns on the ground. The offensive line has done a tremendous job of allowing Gore to find space in between the tackles. They have also improved their pass blocking, averaging 1.4 sacks allowed per game the last five weeks as opposed to 2.6 over the first three.

Next Week: The defense and special teams

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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