49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

October 2, 2007
Receiving corps deserves blame, too

Fire the offensive coordinator! Reshuffle the offensive line! Mike Nolan didn't follow the fans' advice and take either action on Monday. Instead, he turned his attention to his receiving corps and cut ties with under-performing Taylor Jacobs.

Jacobs arrived here last year from Washington with a reputation as a practice Superman who turns into Robin on game days. This time, it seems like the Redskins pulled the wool over the 49ers' eyes because that's exactly how things turned out. Jacobs dropped passes on Sundays. He ran the wrong routes. He didn't scare defenses one bit.

But the same can be said about the rest of the team's receivers. They're dropping passes. And worse, they aren't getting open. Alex Smith wasn't holding onto the ball because he was frozen in fear the first three weeks. He couldn't let go because his receivers were surrounded.

Said Mike Nolan on the subject: "We have had a difficult time defeating the one-on-one match-ups and winning those match-ups."

No wonder Frank Gore is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and is the 20th-best rusher in the league this year. Opposing safeties don't fear the 49ers' receivers so they crowd the line of scrimmage.

Arnaz Battle and Darrell Jackson are good, and they are certainly the best receivers the 49ers have. The problem is that they have the same skill set. They are both flanker receivers at heart who excel at short and intermediate routes. They catch the ball well in traffic and neither is afraid to go over the middle. But neither can stretch the field. Sure, the 49ers send Jackson deep every once in a while, but he has yet to catch anything close to a bomb and you get the impression that defenses don't respect the deep pass at all.

What's the answer? It's certainly not Jacobs's replacement, Bryan Gilmore, who is a solid, dependable guy but who isn't a game-changing wideout as shown by his meager eight-catch, 150-yard output last year.

The only player on the roster who can scare defenses - or at least give them pause - is Ashley Lelie. After all, he entered the season averaging 17.5 yards per catch over his career, the best in the league. But he hasn't won the coaches' trust in practice. And when he has played, the coaches have never sent him deep. It's like buying a Ferrari - a $4.3 million Ferrari, if you will -- and using it only in stop-and-go city traffic. Or worse, keeping it in the garage.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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