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An outside look

I was poking around SB Nation today and came across an interesting article over at Field Gulls, our Seahawks blog.  John Morgan, who has occasionally posted over here, put together an analysis of the 49ers passing offense heading into the 2007 season.  He had some issues with Football Outsiders unit rankings and decided to do an analysis of the passing and rushing offense.  A cursory overview of his analysis seems to indicate he is giving players either ++, +, 0, - or --.  not hugely scientific, but it gives us an idea of what he's thinking.

Vernon Davis is the only player to get ++, while DJax, Jonas Jennings, Jason Hill and Backfield Pass blocking get +.  Alex Smith, Frank Gore's receiving, Ashley Lelie and Arnaz Battle all get 0, Dilfer gets a - while Kwame Harris and the health of Jonas Jennings, Larry Allen and Darrell Jackson gets --.  Morgan's overview indicates that he thinks the success of the offense will come down to the health of the left side of the line.

The Niners grade out better than I thought. I think their offense will be determined less by the development of Smith or Davis and more on the health of their left side.

While I agree that the line needs to stay healthy, I think that is an oversimplification of things.  I think the development of Alex Smith is equally important.  While Smith does not need to become a superstar, as has been discussed previously, he does need to show improvement for this team to take the next step in its passing attack.

I also take exception to what he says about Arnaz Battle:

Arnaz Battle

You've got to love a player who works his ass off merely to be kind of bad, versus laughably bad, and that's Battle in a nutshell. Battle, 27, found a home as a possession receiver last season, but he's more than maxed out his potential. Battle caught 70% of the passes targeting him in 2006, and that simple ability to get open is his main asset.

While Arnaz Battle is clearly not the greatest receiver in the league, I think he is improving in leaps and bounds, especially considering he spent much of his college life as a quarterback.  Personally, I think Battle finishes the season as the #2 wide receiver with Lelie filling the slot role.  While I'd expect either Davis or Jackson to be the teams leading receiver, I'll post a prediction right here that says Arnaz Battle improves to 70 catches this season and finishes in the top 25 in that category.  Not a wild prediction, but it would be a definite improvement from last year.  And looking at Seattle's receivers, Battle would be no worse than the 3rd receiver on that team, which is assuming Nate Burleson bounces back.  I'll go to war with Arnaz Battle and take my chances coming out of things (safe to say we know who one of my favorite 49ers is).

Field Gulls gave the 49ers passing offense a C, which is probably the easiest judgement to make.  The grade range is B to D, which is a good way of describing the 49ers passing offense.  The range could be pretty wide as to how good it actually is.  There are plenty of questions that need to be answered in the coming months.  If the questions are answered, this team will have a great passing game.  Not good, but great.  If the questions are not answered, I think we end up with a repeat of last year, no better no worse.