49ers training camp preview: Wide receivers

49ers training camp preview: Wide receivers
July 21, 2014, 11:15 am
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Patton and Ellington appear to be locks to make the 53-man roster due to their talent, potential, age and contract status. The big decision will be whether the 49ers will keep five or six receivers on the 53-man roster.
Matt Maiocco

Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp. The full squad will report on July 23, with the first practice day scheduled for July 24. In this installment, Matt focuses on the wide receivers.

Who they have: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, Brandon Lloyd, Devon Wylie, Kassim Osgood, Jon Baldwin, Chuck Jacobs, David Reed.

Who they lost: Mario Manningham.

Looking back: For most of the season, the 49ers had Boldin . . . and nobody else at wide receiver.

So if Colin Kaepernick looked like a one-read quarterback, there was a good reason for it, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings this offseason. “Some of the time, there was just one guy to go to,” Harbaugh said.

Things got better when Michael Crabtree was cleared to return after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Then, the 49ers lacked a No. 3 wide receiver, though.

Boldin was fantastic in his first season with the 49ers. He led the team with 85 catches for 1,179 yards for the team’s best output from a wide receiver since Terrell Owens. In eight games, including the playoffs, Crabtree caught 34 passes for 487 yards and one touchdown while clearly still not up to full speed.

The 49ers’ No. 3 producer at wide receiver was Kyle Williams, who was cut at the midseason mark after catching just 12 passes for 113 yards. Manningham never recovered from the knee injury he sustained the previous season and was placed on injured reserve.

Rookie Quinton Patton sat most of the season with a foot injury, but finished as the team’s No. 3 wideout.

Overall outlook: Right off the top, the 49ers are in better shape than they were a year ago. Crabtree is said to be running a lot better than at any point last season, and Patton has one season of experience.

The big addition was Johnson, who turns 28 on Tuesday. He had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Buffalo Bills before being limited by injuries last season and seeing his production drop to 597 yards in 12 games.

Lloyd attempts to make a comeback after sitting out the 2013 season.

Rookie Bruce Ellington looked good in the offseason program, and he has a chance to make an impact as a potential slot receiver.

Camp competition: Johnson is the front-runner for the No. 3 job, but he will have to clearly win the job due to his scheduled $3.925 million pay for the season.

Lloyd had a strong minicamp, but he does not play special teams. If he is not among the 49ers’ top-three wide receivers the 49ers might opt to have a younger player in that role.

Patton and Ellington appear to be locks to make the 53-man roster due to their talent, potential, age and contract status. The big decision will be whether the 49ers will keep five or six receivers on the 53-man roster.

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