49ers roster, 90-in-90 breakdowns: Vernon Davis

Christian Petersen

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days or in however long we feel like it). Today we focus on tight end Vernon Davis.

Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.

We had to get around to Vernon Davis at some point, didn't we? The discussions regarding Davis aren't hard to find here on Niners Nation, but he's going to be here with the San Francisco 49ers next season, whether he's here for training camp or not. You can have your opinions on Davis and his contract, and you can even resent Davis for wanting more money if that's your prerogative. Let's talk about 2013.

Actually, we'll take a look a bit further back. Davis had disappointing outings in both 2011 and 2012, though they weren't exactly poor. After putting up 900-plus yards in 2009 and 2010 -- earning him a sizable contract that still pays him among the top three at his position in the NFL today -- Davis managed a bit less in 2011, with 792 yards and even less in 2012, with 548 yards.

Those seasons, he had six and five touchdowns, respectively. It wasn't what we expected out of a player of his caliber.

But his 2013 season was quite a bit better. Davis caught 52 passes for 850 yards, and most importantly, 13 touchdowns. That tied his single-season high with 2009, when at the time he had tied the record for touchdowns by a tight end in a single season. That record was broken the next year by Rob Gronkowski, but it remains no less impressive that he managed the feat again in 2013.

Davis put up multiple touchdowns in two games last season, though if you want a game in which he was truly dominant, you need look no further than the first game against the Arizona Cardinals. Davis caught eight passes for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a long of 64 yards.

Davis also had a few good catches in the postseason, but he was mostly quiet. As a blocker, there's not a whole lot to say beyond the fact that he does his job and he does it very well. Part of me still hates it when he's not going out to catch a pass, but then again, if the 49ers need the extra blocker, they need the extra blocker. Davis is as good a blocking tight end as anybody in the league.

So what are the negatives? Well, Davis does have a tendency to disappear in games. When he's not making his presence known he's really not making it known. He also doesn't have perfect hands, though this has been a minor complaint in recent years. There are times he completely gives up on plays when it's pretty clear he can do more to get a pass, but that too is a complaint that hasn't been quite as true now as it was in recent years. It happens less and less, and he laid out for quite a few big ones last season.

Why he might improve:

Davis has sniffed 1,000 yards three or four times now in his career. He looked just as fast and explosive as he ever did last season. I don't see any reason as to why he can't improve. The 49ers need to ask him to block less, to start, and they have to get him the ball as opposed to the new and improved group of receivers. Those receivers could draw coverage away from Davis, as well, which would obviously benefit him. Davis going up against linebackers is always a treat.

Why he might regress:

Davis is 30 years old and clearly worried about his next paycheck. There is no reason to suggest that would illustrate a lack of confidence in his abilities, it's just worth noting that he's been in the league since 2006 and he can't last forever. Davis knows that and we know that. There's also the chance that the wide receivers do the opposite of what I suggested up there and take receptions away from Davis.

Odds of making the roster:

He's causing a headache, to be sure, but only aliens could prevent Davis from being on the roster next season.

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