During training camp and preseason, one of the biggest questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers has been who will play and suit up for the team at the wide receiver position. While there were many players brought in and given a chance to compete for a roster spot at wide receiver, in the end, things played out and the 49ers enter the season with five recognized wide receivers.
While many doubt that a unit – which is “downgraded” because of the absences of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham – will be able to perform, there should be no question that the 49ers’ wide receivers expect to have a good opening game this upcoming Sunday at home against the Green Bay Packers. There are several reasons why one should expect a much maligned unit to show up and produce for the opening game.
For starters, the Packers’ starting cornerbacks, Casey Hayward and Tramon Williams, did not see any playing time during the preseason because of a hamstring and knee injury respectively. Therefore, both of them will clearly be lacking some game sharpness as a result, and given that they are lining up in a defense with new teammates, they are liable to struggle. Going up against a veteran like Anquan Boldin, a player with experience in Kyle Williams, and an emerging rookie like Quinton Patton who showed they were in sync with Colin Kaepernick will pose issues for a secondary that still has a lot of questions to answer.
One thing that helps a passing game is when the offensive line gives the quarterback adequate time and protection to be able to throw the ball and find his receivers. With the 49ers offensive line being one of the best if not the best in the NFL, Kaepernick should get a chance to be able to target his wide receivers on a fair number of drop backs. While the Packers do have one of the best pass rushers in the league in Clay Matthews, the 49ers offensive line last season proved that they were able to do a good job of containing him.
While a secondary can cover for a certain amount of time, it can’t do so forever, especially if there is no pass rush to protect for longer than three seconds. Therefore, the 49ers’ wide receivers should be able to benefit from a lack of sustained pass rush from the Packers’ defense on Kaepernick and see a significant number of targets as a result. While it took a while to settle and establish who would be the wide receivers on the 49ers 53-man roster heading into the regular season, the team has a nice solid unit now that many are underestimating. And given they have a favorable matchup Week 1, expect them to have a good game as a unit.