The San Francisco 49ers (1-1) are struggling to find their groove on offense in 2011 under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. In two games, quarterback Alex Smith threw for under 200 yards in both contests, though he has not turned the ball over. I believe the inability to get anything going in the passing game is due to the absence of Vernon Davis.
Physically, Vernon Davis is as extraordinary at tight end as Randy Moss was at the wide receiver position. Unfortunately, Davis has been unable to significantly contribute to the offense yet this season. And while the 49ers were able to get by in week one versus the Seattle Seahawks, Davis' 2 catches for 18 yards against Dallas hampered the offense in week two. The Pro Bowl tight end was shocked, saying, "I didn't think that was going to happen since their secondary was banged up."
When Harbaugh came to town, the word was the offense was going to improve and feature a lot of creativity in getting the tight ends the ball. This remains to be seen. And with as much fire as the quarterback has been under, it was surprising to see Smith not target his usual safety net in Davis.
I also don't want to avoid the fact that the running game has been anemic, making it more difficult to establish a rhythm in the passing game when there's no ground threat. Even with that being an issue, Davis is dangerous any time he has the ball in his hands. The majority of the yards he has gotten so far this season have been after the catch. He is a rare breed in that he can take it the distance on a quick slant or take the top off the defense.
Not to mention, the 49ers fans love Davis, so perhaps his involvement last weekend would have excited the Faithful and silenced the numerous Cowboys fans in attendance. He is such a dynamic player, that without his contributions, the 49ers chances of winning drops considerably. Typically, when Davis is having a good day, Frank Gore is having a good day, which means everyone is having a good day.
Those two players are "49ers Football." That's what this team is about, and this dependence on the back-up receivers or attempt to prove something by having Alex Smith throw to just about everyone but them, is absurd and will not lead us to victories. Davis needs to be more involved and the staff needs to deliver on some promises by getting him involved in creative ways that result in splash plays.
It's not that Smith shouldn't be spreading the ball around, because he should, but he should not be neglecting the offense's greatest playmaker. Granted, Smith only completed 16 passes, but if 6 of them were to Davis, I think it would have been a different ball game. With the west coast installation, the name of the game is getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers. "I've been in this position before. In order for us to win, we have to get everyone involved," Davis said about ball distribution.
I would expect some offensive adjustments for next week against the Cincinnati Bengals. I think it's time Davis gets it going in the offense and Alex Smith finally breaks 200 yards passing in a game for the 2011 season. To me, Davis' non-presence is as shocking as Antonio Gates going catch-less against the New England Patriots. Coincidence that the Chargers lost that game?
The tight end position is important, and the teams that have the good ones (San Francisco, Dallas, San Diego) need to use them in order to win games. Not because they can't win without them, but because that special element they bring to the game will increase their chances of victory. I can't see Davis continuing to be a non-factor, so look for him to be a contributor in week three when San Francisco goes on the road versus Cincinnati.
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