49ers review: Wide receivers

627160.jpg

49ers review: Wide receivers

This is the seventh installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.When the season opened, the 49ers figured Michael Crabtree would be their No. 1 receiver. Then, it was up to Braylon Edwards and Joshua Morgan to sort out the next two wideout spots among themselves. Ted Ginn would handle the return duties and be the No. 4 receiver. So that was the thinking when the season began. But when the season ended, it was a different story. Morgan sustained a season-ending injury; Edwards injured his knee, became disengaged and was released; and Ginn missed the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury. This unit provided woeful production in the games that mattered most. Grade: D-

Michael Crabtree -- When the regular season ended, Crabtree's stock was the highest it had been since the 49ers chose him with the No. 10 pick in the 2009 draft. He and quarterback Alex Smith were peaking together at the right time. Crabtree caught 72 passes for 880 yards, both team-highs, and four touchdowns. But after catching a 4-yard TD pass on a quick slant in the first quarter of the 49ers' playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, nothing went right. Crabtree failed to hold onto three catchable passes later in that game, and he had just one catch for 3 yards against the Giants. Afterward, Crabtree was frustrated, saying all he wanted was more opportunities to make plays. He is signed through the 2014 season, and he still figures prominently in the 49ers' future. Crabtree bought into Jim Harbaugh's blue-collar mantra, as he was a surprisingly effective -- and willing -- blocker.Ted Ginn -- He rated anywhere from extraordinary (Week 1) to solid and steady (all the other weeks) as a return man. But as a receiver, he wasn't that much of a factor with 19 catches for 220 yards and no touchdowns in 14 regular-season games. Ginn has blazing speed, but his average reception went for just 11.6 yards. Ginn and Alex Smith could never hook up on deep routes outside the numbers, as Ginn's longest reception was 26 yards. That was his only catch of more than 20 yards the entire season. He carried the ball eight times and averaged 8.5 yards, as the "fly sweep" became a staple of the playbook.Kyle Williams -- The No. 5 receiver when the season opened, Williams showed some promise as a slot receiver with 20 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns when pressed into action. He showed big-play ability against the St. Louis Rams when he took a short slant, turned upfield and raced 56 yards for a touchdown. He caught two passes for 12 yards against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. Against the Giants, he did not have an official reception and his two miscues in the return game proved costly.Brett Swain -- He won a mid-season competition for a roster spot against veteran free agents T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Finneran and Chris Chambers. But Swain never won the confidence of the coaching staff. He had two catches for 15 yards during the regular season. He did not go aggressively after a deep pass on the final drive against the Saints in the playoffs. And the following week, the 49ers opted to use two tight ends instead of him as the third receiver against the Giants in passing situations.
Joe Hastings -- The undrafted free agent from Washburn earned a spot on the 49ers' practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster for the regular-season finale and saw just a handful of snaps in that game against the Rams. He did not catch a pass. He did not play in either of the playoff games.Joshua Morgan -- His season appeared to be on the up-tick . . . then in the closing minutes of a blowout victory Oct. 9 against Tampa Bay, Morgan sustained a fractured leg just above the ankle that required season-ending surgery. Morgan's rehab is ahead of schedule, and he should be able to participate in the entire offseason program. He is scheduled to be a free agent, and it would seem to make sense for the sides to agree on a contract for next season. In five games, Morgan caught 15 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown.Dontavia Bogan -- The undrafted rookie from South Florida sustained a torn right ACL in a non-contact passing drill during one of the first practices of training camp. He'll get another chance this summer.

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

PHOENIX – Coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a position with the 49ers in which he had no quarterbacks on the roster.

On the first two days of free agency, the 49ers added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. He determined they were better fits for the offense he would be installing over Colin Kaepernick, who started 64 regular-season and postseason games for the 49ers over the past 4 ½ seasons.

Shanahan appeared to be looking for quarterbacks who are more proficient at going through progressions and making plays from the pocket. Kaepernick was not deemed as a good fit for Shanahan's offense.

“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think Colin has a certain skillset that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.

“When we first looked at it, you got to look at each quarterback and what type of offense you want to put in. That wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to put in a different type of offense.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. General manager John Lynch has confirmed the 49ers would have released Kaepernick if he had not opted out of his deal.

“The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ top target in free agency was Hoyer, who enters his ninth NFL season with his sixth different team. Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 in Hoyer’s second and final season with the club.

Hoyer started five games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sidelined with broken left arm. Hoyer completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in 200 attempts.

“All these questions about what I like in a quarterback, Brian is like that,” Shanahan said. “He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it. That gives other guys a chance to perform in your offense. If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.

“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”

The 49ers also reached a contract agreement with Barkley, who started six games with the Bears due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Hoyer. Barkley saw the most extensive playing time of his career. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Just watching Matt since college, Matt’s always been a solid player, even coming out and playing at an early age at (USC),” Shanahan said. “He’s battle-tested in that way. He’s gone through the pressure of college, the pressure of the draft, being in the NFL, being with some different teams. Even watching Matt in Chicago this year, I think he played better this year than he has throughout his career. That means the guy is continuing to work at it.”

The 49ers figure to go to training camp with four quarterbacks, so the team is not finished at the quarterback position.

“We’ll look to add anyone who can really help us,” Shanahan said. “I’m very happy with the two we got. You know we’re not only going to take two to camp. So we got to see how the draft works out and then you see what else is out there.”

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.

“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.

"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."

General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.

“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”