By request here's a review of our offensive capabilities and what needs we need to address. I'll take a look at those on the practice squad as well to see if there might be anybody there who could fill these needs.
Alex Smith--FA 2011
Shaun Hill--FA 2011
Nate Davis--FA 2013
There's not any controversy here. Alex Smith will be our QB next year barring a horrible off season accident. The question then becomes who becomes the backup. Hill will be a free agent in 2011 but won't start for us again (barring an injury to Alex Smith). Davis is signed through 2013. Hill is a competent backup and Davis has some promise but is a project QB. Regardless this is not an area of high concern for us. If we draft a QB I expect it to be in the later rounds of the draft.
Frank Gore--FA 2012
Glen Coffee--FA 2013
Michael Robinson--FA 2013
Frank will be our starter for a little while yet. Unfortunately the shelf life for a running back is only 7 or 8 years and the dropoff happens extremely fast. We have maybe 4 more solid years with Gore before he starts declining. I'm assuming this is why we drafted Coffee this year (had he stayed at Alabama he may be holding a Heisman right now instead of Ingram). Problem is Coffee has the same style of running that Gore does only not as effective. He's averaging 2.6 yards per carry, Gore is averaging 5.2. Right now I don't see him as the heir apparent to Gore--he's a serviceable backup though. Third string RB is Michael Robinson who is really nothing more than a special teams player. He's only carried the ball for us twice this year and has a handful of receptions.
When Gore is hurt we are fresh out of options at the RB spot. Gore also tends to get worn out at the end of games, so having a change of pace back is going to be really important to keep him fresh and for his long term health. I think this is something that we need to address either through FA or the draft. My preference is to do it through the draft. Gore is a FA in 2012, Coffee and Robinson in 2013
Moran Norris--FA 2012
Moran Norris is the starting FB. You've all seen my rants on this subject--suffice it to say that I don't care for him. He can't catch very well and his favorite block is a chop block, which means that if (when) he misses the defender has a free shot. Brit Miller isn't listed on the depth chart as the backup, but he's been promoted from the practice squad to special teams. We know he can play FB as he had a great season. My personal hope is that Brit Miller takes the starting job away from Moran Norris.
Michael Crabtree--FA 2015
Arnaz Battle--FA 2010
Jason Hill--FA 2011
The Niners normally line up in a 2 WR, 2 TE set, with one of the WRs out (normally Crabtree), and one playing a slot role. The out guy is consider a #1 WR, the slot guy a #2, and that's how they're listed on the Niners depth chart. When he run 3 WR sets (which isn't often), we put in a second #1 guy. This depth chart is a little interesting since it shows Arnaz Battle as a backup to Crabtree. Battle has only had 5 receptions this year. I think it's safe to say that we're starting to phase him out of the offense and moving him to a strictly special teams role. He's a FA next year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him go to a place where he feels he could be more used at--especially since we're paying him $1.5 million this year and I don't think we'll do that next year.
Jason Hill has been a pretty serviceable receiver for us. This is his third year in the league. His rookie year he was barely used. Last year he had 30 catches for 317 yards (10.6 yards per catch). This year he's only had 7 receptions for 73 yards (10.4 YPC). The change in philosophy to more of a two TE formation has really hurt his playing time. We're paying him the minimum salary so it's not like we have a bunch of money tied up in him. He's signed through 2011 and if he doesn't make an impact soon I think we cut him.
Josh Morgan--FA 2012
Isaac Bruce--FA 2010
Brandon Jones--FA 2014
We all know the true state of affairs here. Isaac Bruce is only the token #2 guy--he's basically sitting out the rest of his career with the team. Morgan has had a pretty good year with 39 receptions, 418 yards, and two TDs. He's also effective in the run game as we use him in end arounds quite successfully. Brandon Jones has been a colossal disappointment for us. He's only had one reception on the year and wasn't all that great before we acquired him from Tennessee. For what we're paying him we should be getting much more production.
The only sure-fire target we have is Crabtree. Hill has shown flashes, so has Morgan but in reality neither are true offensive threats. We need to have another wideout who can scare defenses. Can you imagine someone like Vincent Jackson lined up on the other side of Michael Crabtree?
Vernon Davis--FA 2011
Delanie Walker--FA 2013
Davis has exploded this year, as has Walker. Both of them are really integral parts of our offense but we don't have anybody as a backup. We need to address this in the offseason. VD is a free agent in 2011, Walker is a free agent in 2013.
Joe Staley--FA 2018
Barry Sims--FA 2010
David Baas--FA 2010
Tony Wragge--FA 2011
Eric Heitmann--FA 2012
Chilo Rachal--FA 2012
Adam Snyder--FA 2011
The two strongest pieces of the offensive line are at LT with Staley and Sims and at cetner with Heitmann. Sims has been an exceptional backup. I'm a little worried about the chemistry of the unit with Staley starting this week, but Sims has a banged up knee (had an MRI on it on Tuesday I think), so it's probably for the best. Baas is a fine run blocker, but not so great at pass blocking. Rachal had struggled earlier this year but I think he's figuring things out. Snyder is quite possibly the worst tackle in the league.
Even though the unit has shown some improvement over the past several games we need to fix it. Baas would be a backup in a better unit. Snyder would be third string or cut in a better unit. Wragge isn't all that hot as a backup either. We need to address RT, RG, and add some linemen for depth. In my opinion this is our biggest area of concern in the offseason. Sims is a FA in 2010, though I can see us extending him as he was making veteran minimum this year. Baas is also a FA and is making veteran minimum. Snyder is signed through 2011, so we're stuck with him for awhile, and Wragge is a FA in 2011. This is the unit that needs the most help. We need to pick up someone in FA and also pick up someone in the draft. My preference would be to sign a guard in FA and pick up a RT in the draft.