In early November, I asked whether or not tight end Vance McDonald had a future with the San Francisco 49ers. He had a lot of potential out of college, but is an inconsistent blocker at times and has offered next to nothing as a receiver.
McDonald has a problem with drops, he doesn't run great routes and he never blossomed into the second-string tight end the 49ers wanted. Garrett Celek eventually passed him on the depth chart, even after Vernon Davis was traded. But Celek is dealing with an injury, and McDonald has been the primary tight end, ahead of rookie Blake Bell.
In the two games he has been the primary tight end, McDonald has played well. He's caught 10 of the 11 passes thrown his way, which is surprising given he's had a huge issue with drops throughout his career. Against the Seattle Sehaawks, he caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Against the Arizona Cardinals he caught 6 of 7 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Relative to McDonald's previous production, it's an offensive explosion. His previous single-game high this season was the 19 yards he had in a win over the Atlanta Falcons.
His yardage hasn't been crazy and his production isn't out there, so I'm not suggesting he's suddenly reversed his fate. But paying attention to his route-running and awareness on the field, he looks like he's taking the opportunity seriously and he's starting to show flashes of the receiver we hoped he would be when the 49ers drafted him early on.
I've felt for much of the season that McDonald is gone after the year. I didn't see a way that he saves his job for next year, and I was ready to wish him the best in his future endeavors. But truthfully, if he keeps putting up decent numbers, I feel like the 49ers would like to keep him around. I am a little worried that could turn into them not addressing the position going forward, and I hope that's not the case.
But I'm all for him continuing to perform well. If he changes the 49ers' minds, then he'll probably change our minds too. Let's hope he can perform.