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49ers TE Vernon Davis: Penalty machine

I was poking through the various game threads (more of a skim than hard read), and one of the discussion points that continued for yet another week concerned Vernon Davis and his penalties.  Davis was called for a pair of false starts.  One of the false starts did not really cost the team in the end, but the first one might have cost them a touchdown (some speculation on my part).

Mike Sando runs a weekly penalty watch, and according to his numbers, Vernon Davis tied with Cardinals OT Levi Brown for first in the NFC West in penalties with eight (totaling 44 yards).  According to Sando, Davis has been flagged five times in the three starts Alex Smith has made this season (Davis wasn't flagged in the Houston game).  Even though the 49ers have already played an extra game over the rest of the division this week, obviously the penalties remain an issue.  Vernon Davis may not quite be a "penalty machine," but penalties are certainly an issue with him.

On the one hand, some folks might argue that it's a matter of getting in sync with Alex Smith.  After all, they haven't played together in regular season action in a couple of years.  It takes time to get on the same page.  I think most people would not give Vernon that kind of pass though.  After all, Vernon has always had an issue with penalties, and false starts in particular.

Honestly, I can live with the holding.  Even the best of players gets called for holding on occasion.  I'd like him to not do it, but if it happens, I'll survive.  But false start penalties drive me (and probably everybody else) absolutely crazy.  Vernon Davis has improved in so many areas, but the last few weeks have shown a bit of a regression on false start penalties.  Any ideas what might be the cause of it?  It's possible that Smith uses more and different hard counts that are harder to wait on.  There could be a variety of reasons, but either way, it's something Vernon clearly still needs to work on.

Even though Davis struggled a bit yesterday, he's still putting together an extremely solid season.  Aside from maybe a little more consistency on a week to week basis, the one thing that continues to keep Davis from stepping into the next tier of tight ends is the mental game; not making so many penalties.  If he can figure that out, he'll take a further step towards becoming an elite tight end in this league.