Today is the Mike Singletary imposed deadline for Isaac Bruce to make up his mind about being a 49er in 2009. We'll have continued coverage on this story as any developments break today (and going forward). For now, consider this post an Isaac Bruce thread (as well as discussion on the topic below).
Even if Isaac Bruce sticks around, it seems like he'd be taking a backseat to the rest of the crew. My question is which one steps up next season, assuming any of them do. Way back on New Years Eve, we did our long look back, brief look forward on wide receivers. Early last month we did a re-assessment of the wide receiver depth chart. It's only been a month, but I wanted to take one more look at the position as a whole, in light of the potential news today. And even if Bruce sticks around, one would hope a youngster would take the baton from Bruce.
Josh Morgan: I remain sold on the upside of Josh Morgan, but I'm not ignorant to his relative lack of production in 2008. He had some big catches, but in the end his stats weren't spectacular. That was due in large part to an assortment of injuries that kept him from truly capitalizing on an impressive training camp and preseason. Whatever happens with Bruce, it sounds more and more like Morgan will be getting the starting reps in training camp. The key remains health.
Brandon Jones: Jones is entering his fifth season in the NFL and has not had the breakout season one would like from a young receiver. He improved his numbers in 2008, but they're still less than stellar. Even with the lack of otherwise impressive WR talent in Tennessee, Jones could not become "the man." That makes me wonder if we're getting another Bryant Johnson. A player who could put together solid numbers, but not break through to the next level of receiver.
Brandon Jones lined up at flanker in practice, the same position Isaac Bruce held. An interesting comment showed up at Rotoworld, which stated that Morgan would be the deep threat and Jones would likely lead the team in receptions. The flanker is often the featured receiver on the team, which I find interesting in this case. Morgan seems to be built for that job, but maybe they figure his speed brings great ability deep.
Jason Hill: Hillis entering the ever important third year in the NFL. After one reception for six yards his rookie year, Hill improved to 30 receptions for 317 yards and two TDs his second year. It seems like he's going to go into camp as the slot receiver. He took over that role this past year once Singletary took over and excelled, with all of his stats coming under Coach Singletary. Most of us are excited about a guy like Morgan, but Hill is one guy I am really anxious to see get a full season of reps.
Arnaz Battle: Battle is definitely not long for this world as a 49er. Jones, Morgan and Hill are definitely ahead of Battle for now on the depth chart, and it's entirely possible Dominique Zeigler might surpass him as well. Battle missed much of last season with injuries, and I wonder if he'll ever return to his 50+ catch days, at least here in SF? He's stepped up for some bad teams, and for that I certainly appreciate him. Unfortunately, even though he's only 29, his best 49ers days are probably behind him. I hope for a big return, but there are only so many receptions to be had.
Dominique Zeigler: I know some folks don't expect much out of Dominique Zeigler, but given the role he's in and the money he's being paid, it seems like he'll get a chance at a bigger role in 2009. If he doesn't step up in camp, so be it. However, Zeigler seems to have some solid hands and solid abilities, based on what little we saw of him. I certainly don't think he'll have the best year among the receivers, but I do think there's some talent in there. It'll be interesting to see what opportunities he gets in 2009. He's a tough one to predict.
Not including the folks signed to futures contracts (Maurice Price/Micheal Spurlock) and Isaac Bruce, the 49ers have five receivers under contract. If Bruce retires, it will be interesting to see how the 49ers handle wide receivers in the draft. Barring them taking a Maclin or Crabtree, whomever they get is unlikely to get much of a chance to do much in 2009.
If that's the case, who on the current roster steps up as the man this year?