One of the bigger story lines in camp so far as been the use of the tight end in the Mike Martz offense. The 49ers have two extremely talented tight ends, something Mike Martz has never had. Maiocco ran the stats and came up with the following:
1999, Rams: Roland Williams 25 catches, 226 yards, 6 TDs
2000, Rams: Williams 11-102-3
2001, Rams: Ernie Conwell 38-431-4
2002, Rams: Conwell 34-419-2
2003, Rams: Brandon Manumaleuna 29-238-2
2004, Rams: Manumaleuna 15-174-1
2005, Rams: Manumaleuna 13-129-1
2006, Lions: Dan Campbell 21-308-4
2007, Lions: Sean McHugh 17-252-0
Last season, Vernon Davis finished with 53-509-4 and Delanie Walker finished with 21-174-1. I first thought of this post after reading a Mike Sando post at the ESPN NFC West blog (a quality read every day):
I see no obvious evidence the 49ers are making a concerted effort to tailor the passing game for tight end Vernon Davis. I'm hesitant to read too much into that because Martz continues to install the offense; this might not be the time to get that specific.
Sando had a chance to chat with Mike Martz about Davis and others and received some quality insights from the mad scientist. While Martz wants blocking from his tight ends, he also recognizes the unique abilities of Vernon Davis.
The most interesting point was that the Duke's reception total may not increase, but they'd like a nice increase in his yards per catch. On this point, Sando made a comment that I think I disagree with:
As for Davis: We should not become preoccupied with the number of receptions. In fact, if Davis is catching a disproportionate number of passes, the offense might not be functioning very well.
I don't know if I buy that in regards to Davis. He is significantly more athletic than your traditional tight end that stays close to the line of scrimmage. Even if Davis is just receiving a dump off, he's got the size and speed to break it into a big play (see his first touchdown reception as a rookie). He is enough like a wide receiver that if his reception numbers go up, I don't see it as a necessarily bad thing. Although, as Sando mentions in that article, it'd be really nice to see his yards per reception go up.
The preseason usually sees teams run rather vanilla offenses. While we won't see a lot of trickery, I hope we'll get a chance to see what Davis and Walker can do on the field together. Earlier this month I made my semi-rational irrational prediction that Vernon Davis would make the Pro Bowl. I don't know what kind of numbers to expect from Walker, but I'd imagine he'd fill a slightly more traditional tight end role. We won't get all the answers we want in August, but it's certainly one more reason to watch preseason football.