Well, but for the painful way this season came to a sudden and grinding halt, this was a truly epic run by this band of 49ers. Offensively, most areas of the team improved dramatically. Alex Smith went from the bottom 10 in the league to the top 8. He dramatically cut down his turnovers and interceptions. He led the furious comeback in the NO game to cement his lasting impression on a hugely successful season. The O line improved, after some mid-season setbacks. Frank Gore had another strong year, despite being banged up (and according to some, washed up). Rookie Kendall Hunter had a great year as Gore’s back-up/give-Frank-a-rest guy. Bruce Miller was a godsend as the converted DE turned FB. His blocking for Frank made everyone forget about Moran (whiff) Norris. Nice wheel route as well. TE was improved as well. VD had a strong season, mainly because of the WR situation. His yards were down, but his catches were up compared to 2010, as he became Smith’s go-to guy. He had some struggles with his hands and feet, but in the end was the biggest reason for the near Super Bowl berth. Delanie Walker had a great season going until the broken jaw. Both were beasts blocking downfield for the run game.
The area that was abysmal was the WR corps. The big blows were Joshua Morgan getting injured in garbage time of the TB game, and Braylon Edwards’ knee injuries in the preseason, and early in the Dallas game. This seemed to start the domino effect of ineffectiveness from this bunch. Michael Crabtree’s numbers have steadily improved since he got here, but I never get the sense that he’s fully engaged in the game. The Saints game and this last one were flat awful from a guy who’s supposed to be the #1 WR. 4 catches and 3 drops in the Saints game, and 1 catch in the Giants game aren’t very impressive. He seems to not bother turning for the ball when he isn’t the #1 option. Hot reads elude his comprehension. With Edwards’ injury and subsequent ineffectiveness, guys like Ted Ginn and Brett Swain (and other no-names) were added to the WR list, but they were varying shades of nothing. Ginn of course shines as a PR/KR, but his pass catching is not his strong suit. All in all, it was pretty amazing that Smith had the season he had without much in the WR department. The strange thing to me is that the ineffectiveness from this group never seemed to be a big concern to Jim Harbaugh. There were guys like Houshmanzada and Lloyd ( and others) who could have walked in and been effective. This is a BIG area for improvement this offseason.
I think someone like DeSean Jackson would be a welcome addition to a group that is vastly underperforming. There are plenty of draftable guys. Jerius Wright is a speedster who could be had in the 3rd or 4th round. And countless free agents.