The future Hall of Fame receiver sat out the 2011 season following a disappointing 2010 season, in which he played for three teams and garnered a paltry 28 receptions. His previous worst season was in 2006, when he caught 42 passes for the Oakland Raiders. It was the second of two disappointing seasons in Oakland.
Moss is now back in the Bay Area and saying all the right things. Coach Jim Harbaugh says Moss is a complete receiver, but he remains the biggest question mark of 49ers training camp. If Moss is even close to the receiver he was for this first three seasons in New England, the Niners could have something in the 35-year-old.
The Niners also added free-agent receiver Mario Manningham, who comes over from the New York Giants after winning a Super Bowl. Moss, Manningham and rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins should improve San Francisco’s receiving corps. It’s just a matter of quarterback Alex Smith getting his timing down with the revamped group. Smith joked that getting to know Moss is like dating a new girlfriend.
Another thing the Niners would like to learn is how exactly LaMichael James will fit into their plans. The second-round draft choice from Oregon figures to be the complementary speed back to Frank Gore as well as spell Ted Ginn in the return game.
The Niners also brought in Manningham's New York teammate Brandon Jacobs. The 6'4", 264-pound Jacobs left the Big Apple because he didn't think the Giants would re-sign him.
The 30-year-old veteran isn't bitter about his "divorce" from the Giants, calling it smooth. "I didn't ask them for half, and I let them keep the dog," he joked with reporters over the weekend. The real question the Niners want answered is how much fuel the eight-year veteran has left in the tank.
Second-year outside linebacker Aldon Smith should unseat Parys Haralson as the starting outside linebacker. Smith broke onto the scene as a rookie with 14 sacks and added two more in the playoffs. His development with an entire offseason to better learn the nuances of the defense will be a key cog as the Niners hope to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.
The 49ers also have to figure out who their starting right guard will be. They recently signed Leonard Davis, formerly of the Detroit Lions. Davis spent last year in Detroit following four seasons in Dallas. The second overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2001 will compete with converted tackle Alex Boone for the job. Right guard is one of few positions that was unclaimed prior to the start of camp.
Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person will push both Davis and Boone for the job. Davis might be best suited there, but the 6’8” Boone is more than capable. His biggest obstacle is his height, which is more appropriate for a tackle. Boone’s strength and intelligence could make up for that. Davis’ signing is a clear indication that Harbaugh was not content with having just Boone, Kilgore and Person competing with a trio of rookies for the job.
The 49ers already have one of the league’s best defenses. It’s up to the offense to build on last year’s success and finish the season in New Orleans.