We've spent a good deal of time discussing the impact Jim Harbaugh and company will have on the 49ers offense in 2011 and beyond. While at Stanford, Coach Harbaugh enjoyed utilizing his tight ends, which could mean good things for Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker (and I'd imagine Nate Byham to a lesser extent). A week or so ago, Pro Football Weekly had some comments from a "49ers source" about Harbaugh and the tight ends:
The word from our 49ers sources is that the future probably bodes quite well for TEs Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. "(New head coach Jim) Harbaugh loves the tight end. He had three of them who helped kill Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. I could see Walker really blossoming under Harbaugh. He's very dedicated and athletic."
Delanie Walker has always been a guy who has flashed incredible athleticism at times. The 49ers have a fairly young group of wide receivers and it's possible Coach Harbaugh and his quarterback of choice relies heavily on the tight ends. Throw in the expected West Coast style of offense and strong tight end play fits right in.
Walker finished last season with 29 receptions for 331 yards and Davis finished with 56 receptions for 914 yards. I think we continue to see Davis emerge into a 1,000 yard receiving threat. The question is what happens to Walker and his touches. I actually think we could see the 49ers emerge with two 1,000 yards receivers next season in Davis and Michael Crabtree. Throw in Frank Gore's existing pass-catching skills, Josh Morgan, some more playing time for Kyle Williams, and the return of Dominique Zeigler, and there are not a lot of passes to go around.
Or are there? Could the offense reach a sufficiently dynamic level for Delanie Walker to emerge just a little bit more as a receiving threat?