49ers position-by-position breakdown: Tight ends

Matt Maiocco's 49ers Breakdown: Receivers

49ers position-by-position breakdown: Tight ends
July 18, 2013, 9:30 am
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It would be a surprise if Vance McDonald does not immediately become the No. 2 tight end and see a lot of playing time. (AP)

Editor's note: Insider Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp. The rookies are scheduled to report on July 19, with the veterans scheduled to follow on July 24. Today Matt focuses on the tight ends.

Who they have: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Demarcus Dobbs, MarQueis Gray

Who they lost: Delanie Walker

Looking back: The 49ers opened last season with four tight ends, including Dobbs, a two-way player who took No. 83 so he would not have to report as an eligible receiver any time he played offense. Dobbs played one snap on offense before sustaining a knee injury in the 12th game. After Dobbs went on injured reserve, the 49ers kept three tight ends on the roster. In the 49ers' final six regular-season games with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, Davis accounted for just six receptions for 61 yards and no touchdowns. Davis finished the season with just 41 catches -- his lowest output since the season with Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. But the playoffs were a different story. Davis returned to being a big part of the passing game with 12 catches for 254 yards in three games. Walker was a big part of the 49ers' offense from beginning to end as the No. 2 tight end. He played nearly 57 percent of all offensive snaps. Walker caught just 21 passes (with a lot of drops) but found his niche in the offense as a blocker. The 49ers' personnel group with two tight ends became the team's base offense, especially after injuries to wide receivers Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham. Celek, who made the team as an undrafted rookie from Michigan State, played about 100 snaps, as well.

[RELATED: Vernon Davis career stats | 2012 game logs]

Overall outlook: Davis might return to being the 49ers' leading receiver (as he was in 2009 and 2010) with Michael Crabtree out for most of the season with a
 torn Achilles. Kaepernick will look to pick up where he left off with Davis in the playoffs. Davis said he's not going into the season with any statistical expectations. "I don't know what to expect," he said. "I leave that up to the coaches. All I can do is do my job and do what they ask me to do." Davis can make a contribution even when he is not catching passes. Davis has a well-earned reputation as one of the best-blocking tight ends in the NFL. McDonald, a second-round draft pick from Rice, was the most outstanding rookie during the offseason program. However, McDonald must prove he's a capable in-line blocker to approach the level of playing time Walker received last season. At 6 foot 4, 267 pounds, McDonald has the size and strength to make a quick
adjustment from being used as mostly a slot receiver in college.

Camp competition: Davis, obviously, returns as the starting tight end. And it would be a surprise, based on his performance in the offseason, if McDonald does not immediately become the No. 2 tight end and see a lot of playing time. Dobbs will likely win or lose a roster spot based on his play along the defensive line and special teams. That likely leaves Celek and Gray to compete for one opening on the team. Gray played quarterback, receiver and running back at the University of Minnesota. His athleticism gives him an opportunity to provide a stiff challenge for Celek, who caught four passes for 51 yards as a rookie.

In line images provided by the Associated Press 

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