June 12, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh directs the offense during 49ers minicamp at San Francisco 49ers training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
In the offseason -- via NFL Draft and free agency -- the San Francisco 49ers added offensive weapons with the state of mind to not only improve overall, but particularly in the red zone. In 2011, the 49ers ranked 30th in red-zone efficiency, averaging 40.68% on scoring attempts.
The team itself was strong, so the 49ers had plenty of opportunities in the red-zone but drives often stalled and San Francisco found themselves settling for field goals rather than touchdowns. With plenty of new additions and a continuance of an effective system, the 49ers offense will look to improve in perhaps their most notoriously weak area.
Looking at the upcoming 2012 season, two players stand out to me as individuals that will make a serious impact and become possibly the 49ers' two most dangerous red-zone threats.
Randy Moss, WR
Not only does Moss have all the tools to be a dominant receiver for San Francisco this coming season, but has a rare combination of skills that will see him excel in goal situations. At 6'4, Moss has the height to cause problems for undersized cornerbacks and safeties. His leaping ability, timing and hands have also been unmatched for a decade, where Moss has dominated the competition in this league.
Alex Smith has also been one of the most efficient red-zone passers, with an 83.5 RZ QB rating in 2011. And for his career, Smith has thrown an astonishing 40 touchdowns to one interception when deep in the opponent's territory. Being able to trust Smith to not turn the ball over is great because it will allow Moss three-plus opportunities to get open for the score - two more than he probably needs.
Smith will have to adjust to aiming high and lock down his timing on the fade-route; that will result in a lot of success for the Niners in goal situations.
LaMichael James, RB
It's hard to ignore the presence of one of the most prolific college running backs in recent memory. LaMichael James will be able to provide a dimension to the offense that this team has not had, and it will carry-over into the red zone. Similar to how Moss has routes that play to his skill set, so will James.
Considering James' speed, small stature, elusiveness and vision, middle-screens and shovel passes will be particularly effective plays to utilize his abilities. James will be able to gash defenses for six points before they even know what hit them. He will also be able to get to the edge quicker than any tailback on San Francisco's roster, so toss plays, counters and misdirection runs will cater to what he does best.
Both of these players come with speed and game-breaking ability. They each come from backgrounds, respectively, where they have carried their teams. Moss currently ranks 5th all-time in touchdowns from scrimmage (153), while James' 53 rushing touchdowns at the University of Oregon rank 7th in NCAA history. Both Moss and James know how to locate the end zone, and with their freakish athletic ability, should be able to be dominant weapons for San Francisco in 2012.