In the San Francisco 49ers‘ Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the offense only managed seven points and 139 net passing yards. In Week 10, the unit struggled again to move the ball in a 10-9 defeat to the Carolina Panthers. The 49ers were only able to accumulate 46 net passing yards in that contest. Other than paltry offense, both of the defeats had one glaring thing in common: The absence of Vernon Davis for all or most of the games.
Davis is as balanced a tight end as there is in the league and contributes in all facets of the game. He is an accomplished blocker and his presence in the lineup opens up more opportunities for his teammates. However, in addition to the little things, Davis has proven time and time again that when featured in the offense, he can be dominant.
Proof of Davis’ impact when involved can be seen in his production. During the 2013 regular season, in the six games he was targeted six times or more, Davis caught 30 passes for 577 yards and scored seven touchdowns. The 49ers went 6-0 and averaged just under 32 points. In the nine games Davis was targeted less than six times (including the game against Carolina where he was lost in the first quarter due to a concussion), the team was 6-3 and averaged 23 points. The 49ers scored seven points and lost the only game he did not appear in.
Davis has also proven to be a clutch player who has made a significant impact in the playoffs. While he will always be remembered for his performance in the 2011 NFC Divisional Round where he caught the the go-ahead touchdown pass in the closing moments of a victory over the New Orleans Saints, his play has been consistent throughout.
In eight playoff games, Davis has averaged six targets per contest and gained 600 yards while scoring seven times. That’s further proof that if involved the tight end can and will make a consistent impact.
As the 49ers move forward and continue to center their offense around Colin Kaepernick, they will certainly add additional weapons on the outside. It’s imperative, however, that the team remembers to involve Davis in the offensive game plan from week to week, as he is as dynamic a tight end as there is in the NFL.