San Francisco 49ers: Why Tight End Vernon Davis Is in for a Big Year in 2012
As close as the San Francisco 49ers got to a title last year, they will really be looking to take off in 2012. So many variables lead to a number of players having career years next season, as well as overall team success. A very talented individual who could pushing career numbers in 2012 is San Francisco's tight end Vernon Davis.
When it comes to the offense, Davis has been arguably the most explosive threat for the 49ers over the past few years. A former first-round pick, Davis is a hybrid at the tight end position—blocking as well as some linemen and as good a pass-catching threat as most receivers.
Davis has always contributed to the 49ers, but numbers-wise, he really got it done in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In those two years, he recorded 134 catches for 1,879 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. In a shortened league year in 2011, Davis saw a decline in his numbers while the organization was restructuring.
But there are a few reasons to believe Davis could be in for a big statistical year in 2012.
1. Budding Chemistry Between Him and Alex Smith
The last three games San Francisco played in 2011 were big for Vernon Davis. The 49ers were in need of big plays to be generated in the passing game and Davis provided that. In Week 17, 19 and 20, Davis accumulated 410 receiving yards on 18 catches, averaging 22.7 yards per catch.
Jim Harbaugh was allowing Alex Smith to let loose and he continued to find Vernon Davis for big plays. During this time, not just the media and fans, but the 49ers coaching staff saw how efficient their offense was with Davis as a receiver.
No. 11 and No. 85 have shown an ability to connect on the football field, but we could be coming upon their best work. A lot of people think that if the 49ers are going to have another 1,000-yard receiver anytime soon, it's going to be Davis. In 2009 and 2010, he was a big play away from the 1,000-yard mark.
With Smith working on his mechanics this offseason, and Davis being the quarterback's undisputed favorite target, the Pro Bowl tight end could be seeing much bigger numbers this coming season.
2. Expect Him to be Used Less as a Blocker
There's a few indications that might lead people to believe that the 49ers staff would want to use Davis less as a blocker and more as a receiver. Even though he's arguably the league's best blocking tight end, he's too dynamic a receiver to not be utilized as such.
The 49ers were working out a lot of kinks in 2011, and Davis played a clutch, selfless role by assisting the offensive line in protecting Smith and setting the edge for the running backs. The front office has also been working diligently to shore up the offensive line and make it a strength of the offense. If that position group comes along well, Davis would not be needed to block nearly as much as he did in 2011.
3. Addition of Randy Moss
Something Davis has never had since his tenure as a pro is another capable playmaker at the receiver position. Moss and Davis separately are enigmas for defenses, but together they could be unstoppable. So much attention will be diverted from Davis to Moss that it will open up things for the tight end that were never available before.
There are now more weapons on offense than they've had in a decade, and with such a gifted athlete like Davis, he's bound to take advantage. Even when he's double- and triple-covered, Davis is still very difficult for defenses to slow down. More often than not, Moss should be demanding the double-coverage; and from there on it's a cakewalk for Davis.
Davis is a physical freak who is a top-three player at his position in the entire league. With the total expected improvement from every level of the 49ers infrastructure, a number of players could be posting career bests. In 2012, I expect Vernon Davis to be taking advantage of the situation in front of him by winning games and lighting up the stats sheet.
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