Sorting through crowded group of 49ers wide receivers

Roman: 'Everything is a meritocracy'

Sorting through crowded group of 49ers wide receivers
August 6, 2013, 7:45 am
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Anquan Boldin is a lock to open the season as the 49ers' starting flanker. (AP)


The only thing Quinton Patton has not been able to practice is catching passes with both hands. (AP)


Austin Collie has the best resume of any of the receivers fighting for a job. (AP)

Editor's note: Training camp is underway. For all the latest news from Santa Clara, check out our 49ers training camp page.

SANTA CLARA -- The wide receiver position accounts for a whopping 15 percent of the 49ers' 90-man camp roster.

The team has 14 wide receivers, though Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree are rehabbing injuries. Manningham might be a month or more away from returning from a knee injury, while Crabtree has about four more months of rehab on his Achilles.

Still, that leaves the 49ers with 12 wide receivers on the practice field. And it leaves the coaching staff with a challenge to thoroughly evaluate all the receivers in camp. The team must devise a plan for playing time in the four exhibition games, beginning Thursday night against the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park.

"Boy it's exciting to have some guys out there healthy, running around, a little bit of depth there," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "It's just something we meet on and we'll come up with a plan. (We) really haven't nailed that down just yet, but everybody's going to have an opportunity."

A year ago, Crabtree and Manningham ranked first and second on the 49ers in receptions. It's mostly a new group competing to get on the field this summer.

Anquan Boldin was a huge offseason acquisition for the 49ers, who gained their No. 1 wide receiver just 30 minutes after Baltimore coach John Harbaugh made the initial phone call to his brother.

Boldin led the Super Bowl-winning Ravens with 65 receptions for 921 yards and four touchdowns last season.

The other nine active 49ers non-rookies combined last season for 30 catches for 438 yards and two touchdowns in 56 games.

Here's a look at the 12 receivers, and how they currently rank when it comes to earning roster spots:

Anquan Boldin: There's no question Boldin is the 49ers' top wide receiver. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has every reason to trust him, and that shows on the practice field. He is a lock to open the season as the 49ers' starting flanker.

A.J. Jenkins: Two days ago, I was wondering if the 49ers might lose patience and cut ties with their first-round pick of 2012. After all, despite four receivers slated to return for the next practice, the 49ers still signed smallish veteran slot receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Austin Collie. Through the first week of practices, Jenkins did not fight for the football. He did not over-extend for balls in the air, and he did not turn into a defender and try to swat away one underthrown ball on a deep route. But his last two practices after returning from a slight hamstring strain might've been his best two showings on the practice field since his arrival. His Monday was highlighted by ripping a Kaepernick pass away from cornerback Perrish Cox for a reception. He needs to continue to demonstrate that determination.

 

Kyle Williams: He has not seen a whole lot of practice time due to his return from an ACL tear last November and a hamstring strain that kept him out of five practices. Williams caught 14 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown as the 49ers' No. 3 wideout last season before his injury. He is still valuable in the return game, though the 49ers are likely to give LaMichael James every opportunity to handle punts and kickoffs. He is most effective in the slot.

[RELATED: Kyle Williams career stats | 2012 game logs]

Quinton Patton: The fourth-round draft pick has been unable to catch passes through the first 10 practices. He has a splint on his left index finger, likely to protect a broken digit. When his finger heals, he should be able to step in and play. After all, he's studying the offense. He's running routes in practices. His conditioning should not be a problem. The only thing he has not been able to practice is catching passes with both hands.

Marlon Moore: The Fresno State product has put together a nice training camp. Moore played 14 games for the Miami Dolphins last season, with two starts, and caught six passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers signed Moore when the Dolphins did not tender him as a free agent. Moore has been solid in all aspects. He shows good deep speed and has made many catches in traffic across the middle. But competition is fierce for the last couple spots on the 53-man roster.

[RELATED: Marlon Moore career stats | 2012 game logs]

Chad Hall: Other than Boldin, of course, Hall and Moore have been the most consistent wide receivers in camp. Hall is most adept in the slot, but he is also working on the outside. He'll need to be versatile to win a spot. He has done everything up to this point to put himself in contention for a regular-season job.

[RELATED: Chad Hall career stats]

Austin Collie: He has the best resume of any of the receivers fighting for a job. In a three-year span from 2009 to 2011, Collie caught from 54 to 60 passes each season and averaged 613 yards receiving. But Collie, who has a history of concussions, is trying to rebuild his career after sustaining a torn patellar tendon in his only game of the season. He is learning the 49ers' offense, and will have about a month to attempt to win a job. With limited practice time since his arrival, his competition has really not started, yet.

[RELATED: Austin Collie career stats | 2012 game logs

Lavelle Hawkins: Forty-seven of his 71 career catches during his five seasons with the Tennessee Titans came in 2011. In his other four seasons, Hawkins never caught more than seven passes in any one year. He impressed the 49ers with his quickness and hands during his workout last week. Like Collie, he has yet to get much of an opportunity. That will come. He has a short period of time to win a roster spot.

[RELATED: Lavelle Hawkins career stats | 2012 game logs]

Charly Martin: The 49ers claimed Martin off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason. He caught four passes for 42 yards in four games last season with Seattle. Martin has been solid. On Sunday, he had one of the best plays in camp against the coverage of starting cornerback Carlos Rogers. "He made an incredible catch on the sideline that we all marveled at after practice," Roman said. "Yeah, Charly has made a couple of them."

[UPDATE: 49ers waive Charley Martin, re-sign punter Schmidt]

Ricardo Lockette: He has a tremendous combination of speed and size, but Lockette still looks raw. His off-field rapport with Kaepernick -- they're roommates and seem to be best friends -- has not noticeably carried over to the practice field. Lockette has also been slowed by a hip pointer over the past week. He is still a work in progress.

Kassim Osgood: He played all 16 games for the Detroit Lions last season but did not catch a pass. Osgood's best chance to make the team is to claim one of the spots earmarked for special-teams coordinator Brad Seely. A 10-year NFL veteran, Osgood earned three trips to the Pro Bowl while with the San Diego Chargers.

[RELATED: Kasim Osgood career stats]

Chuck Jacobs: The odds are stacked against the only undrafted rookie in training camp. Jacobs, however, has handled the situation very well. He has held up under the competition, and has played himself into practice-squad consideration.