It’s safe to say the San Francisco 49ers have learned from past mistakes.
When Michael Crabtree was lost for most of last season, the Niners struggled to not only replace his production, but also to find another wide receiver who was even competent. The team trotted out numerous players, none of whom able to make any kind of a significant impact.
Kyle Williams, Mario Manningham, Quinton Patton, Marlon Moore, Jonathan Baldwin and Kassim Osgood were all given opportunities, and combined for 29 catches and no touchdowns all season. The offense stalled as a result, and the development of quarterback Colin Kaepernick appeared to be stunted.
As San Francisco enters 2014, it appears they are doing everything in their power to make sure the same situation doesn’t happen again.
Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are the unquestioned starters, but an effort is being made to make sure there are other players who can step up in the event of an emergency. The team will keep Patton in the mix as he did show promise at the end of last season and, in his defense, probably struggled at times because he missed much of 2013 with a foot injury.
To add competition and depth, the 49ers signed free agent Brandon Lloyd to a one-year deal. Lloyd did not play last season but did appear to have some gas left in the tank during his 2012 campaign with the New England Patriots. Osgood is also likely to be on the team as a special teams player, although he wouldn’t see much in the way of offensive snaps.
With the draft approaching, it looks like a lock that the 49ers will select at least one wide receiver, and could do so as early as the first round. The team needs a plan at the position beyond 2014 as the only player who looks guaranteed to be on the roster is Patton.
It would benefit the 49ers to get Patton and any highly touted rookie they bring in as much action as possible. That leaves very few reps for any player not named Crabtree or Boldin. At this point, Lloyd looks like just an insurance policy, but it could be a very beneficial one to cash in should another significant injury occur.
For a team with Super Bowl aspirations like the 49ers, adding depth at receiver will only be a benefit should disaster strike again.
Photo: Getty Images
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