Jason Hill: The Forgotten Man of the San Francisco 49ers' Offense
The 2009 San Francisco 49ers offense evolved from a Mike Singletary's Chicago Bears physical running type of team into a wannabe 2008 Arizona Cardinals passing attack and in the last few weeks of the season finally found their own niche.
However, lost in the midst of all the secondary targets including Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Delanie Walker, Arnaz Battle and Brandon Jones was none other than wide receiver Jason Hill.
Hill, San Francisco's third round pick back in 2007, was a standout at Washington State. From 2004-06, Hill set school records with 2,704 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns.
At the 2007 NFL scouting combine, Hill ran a 4.32 40-yard dash, good enough for second best amongst all receivers in the draft.
Now, as a 49er follower my whole life, I had no idea Hill had this type of speed until a member of Bleacher Report made me aware of his 40 time.
Granted, a fast 40 time doesn't always translate to football speed, but the fact that Hill has the assets needed to be an effective weapon for an offense makes it puzzling why he was seldom used this past season.
In 2009 Hill was primarily used on special teams and despite the musical chairs act the 49ers went through with kick and punt return options, Hill wasn't given a single opportunity to be a returner.
Perhaps Singletary or Jimmy Raye saw something in Hill that made them question his work ethic but from what fans see on the outside, one would think Hill would have been utilized more frequently.
If not as a returner, Hill should have been primarily used as the third receiver in the passing game. Back in 2008 Hill proved to be effective running all types of routes in the Mike Martz offense. His receiving numbers jumped from one catch for six yards in five games his rookie year to 30 catches for 317 yards in 16 games at receiver in 2008.
However, in 2009 Hill appeared at receiver in just nine games, caught nine balls for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Spending as little time on offense as Hill did this past season made it so that the most recent picture I could find of him on Bleacher Report came from training camp. That right there proves how little the 49ers used their former third round pick in the passing game.
But why did Hill spend so much time on the sidelines? Why was he inactive for five different weeks despite only showing up on the injury report one time and was listed probable that week?
These are some of the questions fans want answered because Hill showed immense promise last season. Plus considering that Brandon Jones was a flop and both Arnaz Battle and Isaac Bruce didn't play up to expectations, it is odd how the up and coming Hill wasn't able to get on the field more often.
Because of the lack of production at wide receiver this year, there are reports that the 49ers will be looking to add another receiver in this year's draft, preferably one who can stretch the field.
However, with so many different needs more vital than receiver, it would make more sense for the 49ers to use their draft choices in other areas.
If the 49ers front office wants some improved performance from 49ers receiving corps, working with Hill to get him ready for an increased role in 2010 would be the most logical option.
Instead of wasting more money on another free-agent receiver like they did with Brandon Jones last offseason or using one of their draft choices on receiver, San Francisco can save that money and put it towards more important positional needs.
When it comes to receiving options, Hill has that raw speed to stretch the field and proved to have solid hands in 2008, catching all 30 of his receptions in the last nine games of the season.
Hopefully the 49ers give Hill a real shot in 2010 because every time he's gotten the field he's been a consistent target for 49er quarterbacks.
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