Wednesday morning, Matt Barrows wrote about the developing on-field relationship between San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and wide receiver Stevie Johnson. The article talks about it in the form of chemistry, but given the issues raised, I don't think it's quite as simple as just chemistry.
Stevie Johnson is viewed as an unorthodox receiver. His route running is not viewed in the traditional sense, with our Bills blog once describing it with a bit of a knuckleball analogy. I highly recommend reading this post.
Johnson acknowledged he has to use unorthodox techniques because he does not have the same speed and quickness as other NFL receivers. Kap discussed how that impacts the quarterback-wide receiver connection:
"There are times that he's going to make a move on a db, and you have to be ready because he's also making a move that you have to see," Kaepernick said. "So I think that's something where it took a little bit longer just to get used to his body language because he had some unorthodox things that he does. But ultimately his separation is there, he's getting open."
It makes sense for a new receiver to need some extra time with the quarterback, and given the way Johnson plays the game, it is not surprising it will take even longer. Johnson has had a pretty quiet preseason thus far, and as has been pointed out, Quinton Patton was even getting some third WR reps ahead of him last week. Barrows did point out that Kap and Johnson looked to have solid chemistry during the practices with the Ravens.
During joint practices with the Ravens in Maryland, however, Kaepernick and Johnson looked a lot like Kaepernick and Boldin during the 2013 offseason. And that may be the key point for the 49ers receiving corps this season - some receivers are better matchups against certain defenses.
In reality, he'll have to wait and see what Week 1 (and beyond) brings before we can really start to draw any significant conclusions.
But after Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, the wide receiver position as a whole has some questions. There is a lot of talent between Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton, and Bruce Ellington. The question is what the 49ers will do with this group on Saturday with roster cuts, and then heading into the season. Brandon Lloyd is the only one that I view as a question to make the roster, at least right out of the gates. As a vested veteran, if he is on the Week 1 roster, his 2014 salary becomes guaranteed. Last year, we saw the 49ers cut Kassim Osgood at the end of the preseason, and then sign him after Week 1. Is this something we could see with Brandon Lloyd.
According to Barrows's article, Kap referred to Crabtree, Boldin, Johnson and Lloyd as "our four receivers". Kap does not have final say on his receivers, but that would seem to say a lot. It's not quite Vic Fangio saying Craig Dahl is the primary in-game backup safety, but that is the franchise quarterback given what seems to be a very public endorsement of Lloyd.