Any team that wants to run the ball ought to be good at the long ball. Throwing the ball deep forces defenses to move a safety backward and "unlocks the box" -- to borrow a phrase from Jimmy Raye -- for the offense. In the offseason, the 49ers brought in a player, receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., to do exactly that. The 49ers don't want Ginn to be the workhorse receiver he was asked to be in Miami. What they'd like is for him to use his elite speed to stretch defenses from time to time. If the 49ers are able to hit a couple of deep passes early in the season it should pay dividends for Frank Gore and the running attack the rest of the year.
Said quarterback Alex Smith: "I think it's something we have to have, absolutely, especially to stretch teams vertically. I think (Ginn) is a guy that can do that coming in and really take the top off."
So far, Smith and Ginn haven't connected on anything deep, not in practices anyway. But Smith said that's because the passing game is adjusting to the speed and physicality of practices. Smith's arm has fully returned from the last surgery he had in 2008, and he says he and Ginn worked hard on building chemistry during the offseason.
"You know, I feel good about it," he said. "All offseason, and especially the last six weeks, Ted and I have been out here a lot throwing. But, you have to transfer ... that into these live drills, and I think that's especially what these first few days (of training camp) are about, taking what you do in one-on-ones and taking what you do in individuals and transferring that success into team drills."
The 49ers also like to throw deep to Josh Morgan - because of his leaping ability - and to Brandon Jones because of his speed. Jones is trying to work his way back up the depth chart after plummeting to the bottom when he broke his shoulder blade in last year's training camp. "I thought last year, right before he got hurt -- as a matter of fact the day he got hurt - and a couple of days before that he was on track," Mike Singletary said of Jones. "He was making strides and he dove for the ball and hit the ground and hit his shoulder, and it was unfortunate. That was a big setback for him, and he was on track."
Thanks to Rasheed Malek and Sarah Curry for inviting me to tape a 49ers segment for WarriorsWorld.net. The piece posted today, and it's clear that one of us has a future in front of the camera. Click here to watch.
-- Matt Barrows