49ers

49ers need more production out of their star players on offense

Last season there was a lot made about the lack of receiving weapons the San Francisco 49ers had at their disposal with Michael Crabtree sidelined for most of the year.

Inevitably, some dismal performances happened along the way, but in the end the team still found a way to score points. In fact, the Niners scored 31 or more points in six of their first eight games, and eight times overall in 2013 (granted some of that had to do with an opportunistic defense).

The team went out and added extra firepower this offseason in an effort to avoid another offensive malaise, but (for the most part) the results have been anything but prolific.

The 49ers have only scored over 30 points once through seven games in 2014, and that was due to a late pick-six by cornerback Dontae Johnson. For the team go on a run after their upcoming bye, the offense simply has to produce more.

Consider that through seven games, San Francisco only has 15 offensive touchdowns, with only three coming via the ground game. Looking deeper, the offense hasn’t exceeded 22 points more than once all year.

Part of the reason for this is the fact that San Francisco has gotten middling production from some of its most important pieces. Here’s a look at some of the star players the 49ers need more production from after the bye.

Frank Gore

To start, for a team that is based on power running, Gore’s role has been curious at times. He was all but forgotten early in the season, as he only amassed 35 carries over the first three games. Perhaps not coincidentally, the team started 1-2.

Gore seemed to return to being the focal point in Weeks 4 and 5, gaining over 100 yards in each contest, but was a spectator as the team tried to put the game away in Week 6 against the St. Louis Rams. He was also a non-factor in Week 7’s loss to the Denver Broncos, although the lopsided nature of the game had a lot to do with that.

Right now, Gore is on pace to gain 966 yards which would be his lowest output since 2010 when injuries limited him to 11 games. He also has a mere one rushing touchdown.

It’s no secret that the 49ers are their best offensively when the running game is clicking, and it will be interesting to see if the focus shifts back to Gore (with a little Carlos Hyde mixed in) when the 49ers return to action in Week 9.

Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick can be a maddening player to watch, because his performance is often a mixed bag of jaw-dropping plays and head-scratching mistakes.

While his numbers look decent enough this season, (63.8 completion percentage, 11-to-5 touchdown to interception ratio), he hasn’t shown that he can consistently lead an explosive offense.

Kaepernick followed an efficient 16-of-23, two-touchdown effort in a Week 1 win by throwing three interceptions that largely cost his team the game in Week 2. His numbers looked good in Week 3, but he couldn’t put up more than 14 points in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The 49ers leaned more on the running game to squeak out wins in Week 4 and 5, as Kaepernick only completed 31 passes over those two games. Week 6, however, showed what a dynamic force Kaepernick could be when he’s on, as he torched the Rams to the tune of 346 yards and three touchdown passes.

Kaepernick looked like he was going to pick up where he left off in Week 7, as a strong first half kept his team in the game. If not for a couple of drops, the 49ers may have even been tied with the Broncos at half time.

The second half offered more questions than answers again though, as the 49ers failed to get the momentum back because of a Kaepernick interception. Instead of throwing the ball underneath to an open Bruce Ellington for the first down, Kaepernick read the play wrong and was picked off. The Broncos made it 28-10 on the next play, and the game was never in reach again.

Kaepernick also missed an open Brandon Lloyd for what might have been a touchdown later in the game.

These uneven performances look to be par for the course for Kaepernick, who (to his defense) is still learning the position after just 30 regular season starts.

Vernon Davis

Anyone who has watched Davis play over the last two weeks can tell that the ultra-talented tight end isn’t healthy right now. He’s been in and out of the lineup with leg and back ailments this year, and hasn’t looked like himself since Week 1.

Davis has always had some issues with drops, but his inability to catch the ball the past two weeks has been a big concern. Again, this could be due to the fact that he hasn’t played much and is beat up.

Davis, who is fourth all-time amongst tight ends with 55 touchdown receptions, hasn’t scored or managed more than three receptions since Week 1. He’s also only averaging 10.1 yards per catch, which is his lowest total since 2007.

The bye should do Davis’ beat up body some good, and it wouldn’t be an upset if he looks more like his old self when San Francisco takes the field next. 

Michael Crabtree

After a hot start to the season, Crabtree seems to be the forgotten man in the receiving corps.

It looked like Crabtree and Kaepernick were going to pick up where they left off in 2012 early on, as the duo hooked up 17 times (twice for scores) in Weeks 2 and 3. But the receiver hasn’t made much of an impact over the last month, and his production has been on the decline.

Over the past four games, Crabtree is averaging a little over three receptions and 33.75 yards a game, while only finding the end zone once.

The former first round pick is on pace for 73 catches which is respectable, but his 10.1 yards per reception would leave him with only 737 yards receiving. However, if his production continues to be pedestrian, he won’t come close to either of those marks. In fact, he could start losing playing time to Steve Johnson, who has done more with less thus far.

Crabtree’s been targeted 51 times and has produced 322 yards and three touchdowns, while Johnson has only seven less yards (315) and the same amount of touchdowns (three) with 19 less targets (32).

Odds are Crabtree gets himself going again, and has a few big games in the second half. However, the consistency at which he can maintain a high level of play at this point is the question.

Photo: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports 

 

 

 

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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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