Have 49ers improved? Analyzing the offense

March 26, 2012, 6:44 pm
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Through two weeks of free agency, the 49ers' offense has seen . . . --The departure of starting right guard Adam Snyder;
--The addition of wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, along with the loss of Josh Morgan;
--The re-signing of starting quarterback Alex Smith, and the addition of former Tampa Bay backup Josh Johnson.MAIOCCO: Have 49ers improved? Analyzing defense, special teams
So, as 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh likes to say, you never stay the same, let's take a look at whether the 49ers' offense has improved, position-by-position, with their pre-draft moves:Offensive line: Expect right tackle Anthony Davis and left guard Mike Iupati to make noticeable improvements because they'll get their first full offseasons of work with the coaches. Right now, Daniel Kilgore is slated to take over at right guard for Snyder, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Kilgore might end up as the starter, but expect him to be challenged by a player-to-be-added-later. Bottom line: Improvement, based on four spots remaining static and an offseason of work together.Tight ends: Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker are back. Blocking specialist Nate Byham returns after missing last season with an ACL tear. Bottom line: Improvement, as Davis will have a firm grasp of the offense from the beginning of the season.Wide receivers: In the NFC championship game, the 49ers' wideouts were Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Brett Swain. Right now, the 49ers have Randy Moss and Mario Manningham under contract, along with Crabtree, Ted Ginn and Williams. Moss did not play last season, and he's essentially on a six-month tryout with the team to see if he can prove he deserves a role on the team. Manningham was the clear No. 3 with the New York Giants behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. With Manningham, Crabtree and Moss, the 49ers should be able to find two starting-caliber receivers and a good No. 3 man, too. Bottom line: Improvement -- but there are still a lot of questions.Running backs: Frank Gore rushed for 1,211 yards -- the second-highest rushing total of his seven-year career. After five straight 100-plus yard games from Games 4 through 8, Gore went 10 games without rushing for 100 yards in a game. Kendall Hunter was a good change-of-pace back, and Anthony Dixon has not won the confidence of the organization. Bottom line: Slight dip, based on another year or wear and tear on Gore, who turns 29 in May and has been the team's every-down back for six seasons.
Quarterbacks: Alex Smith re-signed after the failed bid to convince Peyton Manning that the 49ers were his best option. Colin Kaepernick has been joined by free-agent pickup Josh Johnson. Last season, Kaepernick and undrafted Scott Tolzien were Smith's backups. Bottom line: Improvement, based on Smith and Kaepernick being in the same system for a second year, and the addition of Johnson to increase the competition.

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