The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver position appeared to be a significant question mark heading into training camp. In the month since the start of camp however, we've seen some positives from guys like Quinton Patton, Marlon Moore, and after the last two games, Lavelle Hawkins.
In Week 3 against the Vikings, Hawkins had one catch for 22 yards and one kick return for a 105-yard touchdown. He had three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but the passion and energy were clearly evident as he was a playmaker. Thursday, Hawkins caught four passes for 62 yards, including a 45-yard catch and run that might have been the best play we saw in the preseason. The folks at 49ersnews.com came across some video of the catch and run.
It was a highlight worthy play, although he did benefit a bit from the initial bobble and poor Chargers tackling. That being said, through those two games, we've seen a lot of energy from Hawkins. As soon as he made that catch, we had people proclaiming that he deserved a roster spot.
As the 49ers approach final roster cuts, there are questions about how the end of the wide receiver depth chart will shape up. Anquan Boldin, Marlon Moore, Kyle Williams and Quinton Patton would seem to have roster spots locked up. It seems like Jon Baldwin is close to a lock as well, but there has been enough chatter about him, Hawkins and Hall, that I thought it was worth focusing the discussion on those three. I suppose you can consider Austin Collie as well, but it really seems like he is going to get his walking papers tomorrow.
Hawkins has looked great in second half play, but one issue that I keep coming back to in my mind is Jon Baldwin's salary. Baldwin is due $1,061,510, and it is guaranteed whether he is on the roster or not. The 49ers have some cap space if they did decide to cut him, but this front office does not strike me as the kind to take that kind of hit willy-nilly. If I had to choose between one of those three receivers, Baldwin's physical skills, short time with the team and guaranteed contract give him the edge in my mind.
The other question would then be whether or not Hawkins, Hall or anybody else would be kept as a sixth wide receiver. If the 49ers kept six wide receivers, the odds seem pretty good that one of them would be inactive most weeks. The team has a lot of options, and I just don't see the value of that sixth receiver. Add in the fact that Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree could both return at one point or another, and it further confuses the situation.
If we look at just Hawkins and Hall, the 49ers have given Hall numerous opportunities in the preseason. It went so far as to include some time on defense as a slot corner late in the game. I don't think Hall brings enough to the table to justify keeping him, but maybe he's earned his way into the coaching staff's heart. It only serves to further exacerbates the situation.
How do the 49ers shake out their wide receiver situation?