Friday, September 5, 2014, 5:45pm
49ers WR Michael Crabtree (calf, questionable) took limited practice reps again Friday and is questionable for Week 1. The questionable tag is a bit worrisome, but Crabtree’s calf injury isn’t considered serious, so he should be fine for a terrific matchup against the Cowboys. This is definitely something worth monitoring throughout the weekend, however. Complicating matters, the 49ers play in the late round of games on Sunday. Stevie Johnson and/or Brandon Lloyd figure to step in if Crabtree can’t go. Anquan Boldin would be the player to start though.
Thursday, August 28, 2014, 1:20pm
The 49ers brought back Brandon Lloyd this offseason. They also acquired Stevie Johnson and drafted Bruce Ellington. And Quinton Patton has flashed this offseason. So who is in line to be the 49ers' No. 3 receiver, behind starters Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree? The position seemed earmarked for Johnson but he did not get much run in the third preseason game. The 49ers may use this game to get a better feel on their third receiver, even if Kaepernick is long gone from the game and Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson are the ones throwing the ball. In any event, coach Jim Harbaugh said he felt "very good" about Stevie Johnson being on the 49ers' 53-man roster.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 6:39pm
On Monday's edition of the Around The League Podcast, we highlighted speedy Arizona Cardinals rookie John Brown as one of the few "hype bunnies" to successfully translate offseason praise to preseason production.
After Brown's impressive preseason debut, general manager Steve Keim raised expectations, suggesting the third-round wide receiver is capable of an impact on par with Anquan Boldin's stellar rookie season a decade ago.
After Sunday's game versus the Bengals, coach Bruce Arians estimated to TheMMQB.com's Peter King that Brown will be used on "60 percent" of offensive snaps this season.
Brown is obviously a name to keep an eye on once the season starts. He's not getting a lot of draft day action, but playing 60% of the snaps could get him noticed at least in deeper fantasy leagues. He's also drawn comparisons to former Colt Marvin Harrison.
Boldin continues to be a good value in the 10th round. He finished #15 in 2013, and actually posted better numbers with Michael Crabtree in the lineup. Boldin averaged 4.7-66-.45 without Crabtree and 5.7-83-.43 with Crabtree, so the potential is there for another top 20 season, though we're expecting him to be more of a WR3-type in the 49ers run-heavy attack.
At no point last season did the 49ers’ aerial attack look as strong as it has during this training camp. Actually, it’s stunning to see how much better this area is than it was last season. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is surely benefiting. A few examples: As a rookie, Quinton Patton was the No. 3 receiver last year. This year, he’s improved, but he might be the sixth and final receiver on the 53-man roster. Jonathan Baldwin was a frontline receiver for a spell in 2013. This year, he was cut 10 days into training camp. The additions of veterans Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and explosive fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington to go with holdover starters Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin make for a pretty special group. It has showed in camp.
In his last 18 games with Michael Crabtree in the lineup, Kaepernick has averaged 20.9 FP, which equate to #3 QB numbers. In 11 games without Crabtree, he averaged 16.1 FP. He averages 2.5 more pass attempts (i.e. the 49ers throw the ball more) and his YPA jumps from 7.4 to 8.4 with his top receiver in the lineup. The addition of Stevie Johnson should help as well. We like Kaepernick in the 8th to 10th round, depending on format.
Ravens Steve L Smith continues to prove he has the best hands of all the Ravens receivers. His best catch on Thursday was reaching behind him for a low pass that would've been intercepted by Chykie Brown. Judging from camp, quarterback Joe Flacco has built a trust that Smith will catch anything thrown close to him.
Smith will likely see the third-most targets behind Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta. Anquan Boldin finished #34 and #30 as the Ravens' WR2 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, so that's probably Smith’s ceiling as he joins a new team. At 35, he’ll more likely finish as a spot starter/fantasy reserve.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 1:50pm
Landry seems to be a good bet to win the slot job. His tape is reminiscent of Anquan Boldin -- not the fastest guy, but he has great hands and is strong at the point of the catch.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 10:13am
Top 49ers WR Michael Crabtree’s return to full health – and he sure looks like he has, moving well in Saturday’s practice and making a one-handed catch in traffic – headlines a group with improved depth and talent.
Anquan Boldin remains tough and crafty at age 33. Stevie Johnson, who had three straight 1,000-yard seasons in Buffalo from 2010 to ’12, arrived in a trade. General manager Trent Baalke made a point to praise rookie Bruce Ellington (“a young guy that’s come in and showed an awful lot of promise”) second-year pro Quinton Patton (“a year older, a year better”), and even 33-year-old Brandon Lloyd (“playing like he’s 28 years old out there”). RB Frank Gore said it’s “by far” the best receiver group the 49ers have had in his 10 seasons.
Friday, July 25, 2014, 12:31pm
Wide receiver Steve L Smith put on a show in his first training camp practice with the Ravens. He started by faking out cornerback Lardarius Webb to get open for an out route and then beat Chykie Brown and Webb again on deep passes. The Ravens expected Smith to raise the intensity level of practice when they signed him as a free agent. He certainly didn't disappoint.
Smith will likely see the third-most targets behind Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta. Anquan Boldin finished #34 and #30 as the Ravens' WR2 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, so that's probably Smith’s ceiling as he joins a new team. At 35, he’ll more likely finish as a spot starter/fantasy reserve, though if he keeps dominating practice, he may work his way into a fantasy WR3 role.
The 49ers tout the deepest receiving corps of Harbaugh's four-year tenure, and they have arguably the league's best offensive line.
The 49ers clearly realized he couldn't improve the passing attack without better targets.
"We're a lot deeper at receiver," starter Anquan Boldin said.
First, the 49ers acquired San Francisco native Stevie Johnson in a draft-day trade with Buffalo. They lured Brandon Lloyd out of a one-year hiatus (as they did with Randy Moss in 2012). And they drafted speedster Bruce Ellington in the fourth round out of South Carolina.
"It gives us an opportunity as an offense to do a lot more," Kaepernick said. "You have a lot of weapons that you can put in a lot of different places. ... They all have the capability of getting open and making plays."
In his last 18 games with Crabtree in the lineup, Kaepernick has averaged 20.9 FP, which equate to #3 QB numbers. In 11 games without Crabtree, he averaged 16.1 FP. He averages 2.5 more pass attempts (i.e. the 49ers throw the ball more) and his YPA jumps from 7.4 to 8.4 with his top receiver in the lineup. The potential Vernon Davis holdout is a concern, but with Johnson in the fold, the 49ers are deep at receiver.
Sunday, July 6, 2014, 12:32pm
In his third season, Smith cracked the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time, generating 1,128 yards on a career-high 65 catches. That puts Smith at No. 17 among all pass-catchers, and it creates a potential conundrum regarding his worth.
On one hand, Smith had a great year given the lack of complementary weapons. On the other hand, a high-end wideout should have had even better numbers, especially without players like Anquan Boldin (who was traded in the 2013 offseason) and tight end Dennis Pitta (who missed most of the year with a dislocated hip) not siphoning off throws.
This year Smith will battle with Pitta, newly signed WR Steve Smith, newly signed TE Owen Daniels and even WR Jacoby Jones for catches. We rank Torrey Smith 26th among WRs with an ADP of the 7th round. We think he'll break the 1,100-yard receiving mark, however, his projected 4.4 TDs is second lowest to only Kendall Wright among our top-30 WRs.
Monday, June 30, 2014, 8:25pm
Odds look to favor Steve Johnson in the end, as Lloyd is coming off a year where he didn't even play. The 9ers still have Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin on the outside with Vernon Davis the TE, so the position winner will have to fight for targets. Just one of many upcoming camp battles to monitor...
Why did Baltimore's deep passing game struggle in 2013?
For one, Ravens QB Joe Flacco never appeared to consistently be on the same page with his receivers. The quarterback had far too many ill-advised decisions or imprecise throws and his receivers also dropped their fair share of balls.
Two, the offensive line’s struggles often made Flacco get rid of the ball quicker than he wanted, preventing deep routes from developing. And three, the departure of Anquan Boldin and the injury to Dennis Pitta took away the Ravens’ two primary underneath threats who work the middle of the field. With them not on the field, the defense could roll a safety and focus on not allowing Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones to get free deep.
“It is definitely [about how you] get the ball out of your hands, because there’s always a route somewhere that you can get the ball out to, and as a quarterback, you have to know when you have a problem and when you have to get it out,” Flacco said last week. “I think that’s the biggest thing with going through your progressions and having a set progression for this, for that. There’s no real guess work, there’s no real gray area, and that allows you to get the ball out real quick.”
Whether it also leads to Flacco reviving his team’s deep passing game remains to be seen but the pieces certainly appear to be in place for the Ravens to improve in that area.
Losing Anquan Boldin to free agency and Dennis Pitta to injury certainly hurt Flacco, who finished #19 after three straight top 14 finishes. Pitta is back, but Boldin is still gone, though the team acquired Steve L Smith to replace him. Expect more low-end QB2 numbers given all the depth at QB. Flacco is a bounce back candidate if things break his way.
49ers WR Michael Crabtree has looked fully recovered from last year’s Achilles tear. He warmed up with his fellow wideouts before practices the past month and then retreated to a the side for individual running drills.
“At the end of last year he still wasn’t 100 percent,” Colin Kaepernick said of Crabtree. “He has a lot more burst to him now. Looks really good.”
Added Anquan Boldin: “He’s a lot more explosive. I see him being back to his old self. He’s taking things slowly. We want to make sure he goes into the season healthy.”
Including three playoff games, Crabtree appeared in eight contests last season and averaged 4.3 catches for 61 yards and 0.13 TD. For a better indication of his potential for 2014, we should include the 10 games he played with Colin Kaepernick in 2012 (and in the 2013 playoffs). When those numbers are rolled in, Crabtree averaged 5.3 catches for 76 yards and 0.50 TD, which equates to 10.6 PPG, or strong WR2-type numbers. He looked liked himself during the 49ers' playoff run, so we're expecting a productive 2014 from the 6th-year receiver.
When the mandatory minicamp ended Thursday, Flacco was decidedly upbeat about how things have progressed, both individually and collectively.
“Throughout the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get really, really comfortable, get back there, go through my reads and have a lot of fun,” Flacco said in a session with reporters. “I feel great. Everything is fresh, new. It’s been enjoyable.”
Losing Anquan Boldin to free agency and Dennis Pitta to injury certainly hurt Flacco, who finished #19 after three straight top 14 finishes. Pitta is back, but Boldin is still gone, though the team acquired Steve L Smith to replace him. Expect more low-end QB2 numbers given all the depth at QB.
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