San Francisco 49ers: 5 Players That Underperformed in 2011 and Need to Step Up

Kyle RobertsContributor IIIMarch 29, 2012

San Francisco 49ers: 5 Players That Underperformed in 2011 and Need to Step Up

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    The San Francisco 49ers enjoyed so much success in 2011 that is difficult to find many weak links. 

    After all, the 49ers were able to reach the NFC Championship Game primarily because of how many players chipped in career years. 

    However, that isn't to say that a few players didn't disappoint in 2011. Some, like Braylon Edwards and Adam Snyder, are no longer on the team. 

    Those who are on the team are looking to bounce back in 2012.

    Here are five players who need to step up for the Niners. 

WR Michael Crabtree

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    While he did set new career highs for catches and yards in 2011, Michael Crabtree has yet to live up to his potential as a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

    Worse, he had an abysmal postseason, completely disappearing in the NFC Championship Game. 

    With the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, Crabtree will have serious competition for the first time in his career. He'll need to improve his game if he wants to be Alex Smith's main go-to target.

    If Crabtree doesn't take a step forward in 2012, it'll be time to start labeling him a bust. 

WR Kyle Williams

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    This is about more than the just NFC Championship debacle. 

    Kyle Williams was given significant playing time in 2011 due to the many injuries that befell the team's wide receiver corps. While he made a few big plays in the regular season, he did nothing to prove that he should be one of the team's main offensive weapons. 

    Williams figures to start next season well down on the wide receiver depth chart. In addition, the re-signing of Ted Ginn Jr. negates any value, if any, he provides in the return game.

    In fact, Williams may have to prove his worth in the preseason if he wants to make the roster. 

TE Delanie Walker

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    In 2011, Delanie Walker had just 19 catches for 198 yards. 

    Considering Walker's size, speed and versatility, it's surprising that his talent hasn't translated into more production. Sure, his blocking was a pleasant surprise last season, but many are starting to wonder if the 49ers should look elsewhere for their second tight end spot.

    With speculation running rampant that the 49ers will draft Stanford standout TE Coby Fleener in the 2012 NFL Draft, Walker may soon find himself displaced.

    If Delanie does continue to get ample playing time in 2012, he'll have to become a bigger threat to take the heat off of Vernon Davis. 

RB Anthony Dixon

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    After a poor 2011 campaign, Anthony Dixon will likely not be a 49er in 2012. 

    The signing of Brandon Jacobs signals that the 49ers' front office realized they could not trust Dixon to be their short-yardage back. 

    The 240 pound Dixon was supposed to be a powerful, bulldozing back.

    However, he hasn't lived up to that standard, gaining only 87 yards and a pair of scores on 29 carries in 2011.

    It will be a minor miracle if he makes the roster for this upcoming season. 

CB Tarell Brown

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    Honestly, it's a little unfair to put Tarell Brown on this list.

    After all, his 2011 performance surpassed many people's expectations. Not to mention that he was solid in the postseason before being injured.

    However, he's arguably the weak link of the 49ers' elite defense. And, with rookie Chris Culliver turning in a solid first-year effort, Brown's hold on a starting spot may be tenuous. 

    Brown will have to continue to improve if he wants to stay a major part of the 49ers' defense