With all of their improvements, should the 49ers be Super Bowl favorites?
Their defense was already elite. And while they didn’t boast the most explosive offense in the NFL last season (ranked 26th in yards per game), they at least knew how to punch it in (ranked 11th in average points scored).
Moss, though, is the missing piece that will take the 49ers offense and put it on par with their D.
On top of Moss, San Francisco signed Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham and drafted A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James. Mesh that talent with the same attack that dropped 36 points in last year’s NFC playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, and the 49ers should show significant improvement even without Superfreak.
But Moss adds something to San Francisco that it didn’t have in 2011 with Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams. Those two are respectable receivers, but they aren’t feared deep threats.
Moss can “take the top off the defense” like no wideout in league history. Sure, he took a year off and only has three receptions this preseason. But while, from the outside, it seems doubtful Moss will make a notable impact in 2012, people on the inside would lead you to believe otherwise.
Daniel Brown of the Mercury News reported former head coach Jon Gruden said of Moss this past week:
If a player has played great before, there's a chance he can play great again. It all depends on where Randy is—physically, mentally, emotionally. If he has 90 percent of what he once had, he can help anybody.
Earlier this offseason, Jarrett Bell of the USA Today reported Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith raved about not only Moss as a player, but as a leader. He said:
I've watched him take the younger guys under his wings. He's in there swimming laps. Now he's got all of them in there swimming. He's been the ideal guy to bring in, the type you'd bring in to be a mentor, even if he didn't play. But on top of that, he can still play.
Moss won’t just transform the 49ers offense because he’s never failed to surpass 1,000 yards receiving on a championship contender. His big-play ability will force safeties out of the box and create larger running lanes for Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and company. And, like Smith said, Moss has evolved into a mentor.
He'll simply make everyone around him better.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.