Now that the initial OTAs are finished, it's time to take a look at another position projection for the 2009 season. Thus far we've checked out the cornerbacks, offensive line, running backs and defensive line.
Today I thought we'd take a look at a particularly interesting position: wide receiver. Barrows and and Maiocco have both noted at times that this is the deepest group of 49ers wide receivers since 2003, when they still had Terrell Owens in camp. I actually think this current group is deeper. In 2003, after TO the 49ers rolled out guys like Tai Streets, Cedrick Wilson, and Brandon Lloyd. Not exactly a murderers' row of receivers.
Isaac Bruce, Brandon Jones, Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, Michael Crabtree
Micheal Spurlock, Maurice Price, Dobson Collins, Mark Bradford
Arnaz Battle, Dominique Zeigler
Among the locks there are certainly big issues surrounding playing time. For the purposes of this article, we're focusing more on the bubble guys. In this instance, it's a very clear-cut battle between Arnaz Battle and Dominique Zeigler. On the one hand you've got the veteran Arnaz Battle. He's certainly not spectacular and has stood out more as the only decent receiver on some crappy teams in the past. It's easy to see how he might have been overvalued given the players around him. At the same time, he has been a productive receiver for this team.
On the other hand you've got the youngster Dominique Zeigler. Zeigler spent the last season and a half on the practice squad before finally getting promoted, coincidentally enough, after Battle got hurt. Zeigler has shown some very solid hands, but did not exactly light up the world in his half season of play.
It's safe to say none of the no chance guys will get that spot. Maybe one of them shocks the world and makes it happen, but I'm not holding my breath. For now, there are a couple options, thanks to the fact that Zeigler does in fact still have practice squad eligibility remaining. The options are:
1) Cut loose Battle and give the spot to Zeigler
2) Keep Battle and place Zeigler on the practice squad
3) Cut Battle, place Zeigler on the practice squad and go with 5 receivers
If there's an injury in training camp that certainly changes the equation. However, for now, assume everybody stays healthy. How do you see this playing out? Looking back at parts of last year, the 49ers actually only carried 5 wide receivers for various stretches of the season (Bruce, B. Johnson, Morgan, Hill, Zeigler/Battle). And that was with the supposed aerial attack of Mike Martz.
Does that change your thoughts on carrying Zeigler or Battle as a sixth receiver? If the 49ers are switching to a strong run-oriented offense, is a 6th receiver a useless commodity? Throw in the fact that you can use Delanie Walker and/or Vernon Davis in a typical receiver role on occasion and it makes even less sense. I think in these last two paragraphs I might well have talked myself out of it. And I'm a big Zeigler fan. Thoughts?