Grading the 49ers: Third down offense

Before:  Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Delanie Walker, Kyle Williams and Kendall Hunter.

Grade: F

Why: Double-cover Davis and the Niners were dead on third down. Crabtree was rarely open enough for Alex Smith’s taste, Kendall Hunter didn’t have reliable hands and Smith rarely even considered throwing to Delanie Walker.

Now: Subtract Walker, Williams and Hunter. Add Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, LaMichael James and A.J. Jenkins.

Grade: B+

Why: If teams over commit to stopping Davis, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss can hurt them deep. If Alex Smith only wants to check down because he prefers the cautious, safe play, he’s got two explosive check-down options – James and Jenkins. The Niners should be able to put five explosive receiving weapons on the field for every third and long, and that’s ideal. If Alex Smith can take advantage of these guys and prove that third down, the Money Down, is not his Achilles Heel, this area should improve from a “B+” to an “A.”

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