I’m waiting to hear from the Niners about media availability this week, but as a prelude to that here’s something for you to think about.
We don’t know if the offense will be better this year, but let’s assume it is indeed better. How will it be better?
Here are five ways.
1. The Niners got fast receivers who can beat single coverage – Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. At the end of last season if a team double covered Vernon Davis it shut down the Niners pass game. Michael Crabtree, the split end, couldn’t consistently beat the press coverage, so most defenses could shut him down with just one defensive back. Most defenses can’t shut down Moss or Manningham with just one DB. The Giants won the Super Bowl largely because the Patriots left Manningham single covered in the fourth quarter and he burned them. The Niners offense can only benefit from having a proven playmaker like Manningham. If Moss can stay healthy, he should have a similar impact for the offense.
2. They have a running back who can catch passes – LaMichael James. Last season Frank Gore caught 17 passes and Kendall Hunter caught 16, and both dropped their fair share. Alex Smith, a man who’s partial to the checkdown, could not check down. Now, he can. On third and seven he can throw the swing pass to James in the flat – not a bad option.
3. They have a big running back – Brandon Jacobs. The Niners should finally be able to run the ball into the end zone from the goal line. Even though Jacobs tends to go down on first contact, he’s still a humungous guy (265 lbs.) who’s scored 16 TDs the last two seasons.
4. They have better quarterbacks – notably, Josh Johnson. He gives the offense a spirited three-way competition for the backup job between him, Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien. Last season, Kaepernick and Tolzien, a couple of rookies, probably weren’t ready to win games late in the season if Alex Smith got hurt. Now, the Niners have better insurance at the most important position.
5. The starting quarterback should improve – Alex Smith. We’ve heard he’s cleaned up his throwing motion and his footwork by training with Tom House, the QB Guru who first helped Drew Brees. We expect Smith to improve this offseason because of this, and because he’s got another year to master Greg Roman’s offense. In the best of all worlds, he will hit the medium and long passes and convert third downs. Can he? That’s the question. If he can’t, it’s the next guy up, as they say.