49ers-Raiders: Spotlight on WR Josh Morgan

I had a chance to skim through my TiVoed version of last night's festivities.  I'm planning on more detailed viewings beginning tomorrow.  In the meantime I found the first topic I wanted to discuss.  There will be plenty of time to look at the negatives, but I wanted to quickly start with a positive: Wide Receiver Josh Morgan.

Before checking out the game I had seen the box score and 4 receptions for 68 yards in the first half certainly jumps out at you no matter the situation.  However, while checking out Maiocco's blog, I noticed a very intriguing comment.  Maiocco discussed every player's impact from the game and for Morgan he said:

84-Morgan: Got the starting assignment at the X with Bryant Johnson out of action. . . . He was certainly the 49ers' best offensive player. . . . Caught four balls for 68 yards. Made strong, secure catches in traffic, like a rebounder blocking out underneath the glass. . . . This kid can play. . . . He is easily having the best camp from a 49ers rookie receiver since 1996 when Terrell Owens came to the team.

Now, to be perfectly honest, the group of 49ers rookie receivers has included a limited number of what one might call "good" receivers.  Some have been solid but for the most part we're talking about guys like Rashaun Woods, Rasheed Marshall, Marcus Maxwell, Brandon Williams and Derrick Hamilton among others.

I looked specifically at Morgan's receptions and saw some very good and some areas of improvement.

Reception 1: Quick slant for 11 yards - Morgan caught the ball 3 yards downfield and added 8 yards after the catch.  It was a quick and easy pass that Morgan hopped to catch and then got taken out shortly thereafter.  Nothing spectacular, but a nice way for Morgan to get his feet wet.

Reception 2: Either a post pattern or an up and in (couldn't tell from the camera angles) for a 22 yard gain - The corner was behind Morgan but had solid coverage and O'Sullivan made a solid throw to Morgan right in stride.

Reception 3: Post pattern for a gain of 20 yards - Morgan jumped to make the catch and as he was coming down the ball was bobbled.  However, Morgan was able to haul it in for the first down.

Reception 4: An up and stop sort of pattern (I don't know the official terminology for it) for 15 yards - Morgan went up, made a couple moves, gave the corner a little push and turned around to make the catch at the 50 yard line.  He spun back around to reach for the first down but came up a yard short.

The one area of improvement is definitely the sense to know where the chains are.  On that fourth reception he just missed the first down and I definitely think that is something that will come with experience.  Of course we definitely prefer he not bobble the third reception but good work bringing the bobble back in.

Aside from those two details, Morgan was impressive in several areas of the game.  He showed good hands when covered and he was able to go up in traffic and haul down the ball.  He's only 6'1 (says the 5'9 blogger) but he's got good size and was able to use his size very well in getting separation.

I'm certainly not going to call him the next coming of TO, but I definitely like what I've seen so far.  This next game will certainly be important to see if he can put together multiple quality performances.  I do enjoy the fact that he's leap-frogged Ashley Lelie in the grand scheme of things and this only puts Lelie in a more precarious position.

Next weekend the 49ers face the Packers who bring a pair of impressive corners in Charles Woodson and Al Harris, although I would imagine we won't see much of them.  The injury report will be important to see which wide receivers are back on the field.  At the same time, I'd imagine Morgan will get another crack at quality playing time.  He showed great chemistry with J.T. O'Sullivan, so we'll see how he looks with Smith and/or Hill.

Tomorrow I'll have a more in-depth review of the game.  In the meantime, I'm going to keep the game saved this week in my TiVo, so if there is something or someone in particular you'd like me to review on the recording, let me know and I'll look it over.

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