By Nate Hanson, Sports Radio KJR
The San Francisco 49ers were the Vegas favorites to win the Super Bowl as the offseason began. However, an eventful offseason has provided a few extra hurdles for the defending NFC champions. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco told The Furness Show that the team’s biggest concern heading into the 2013 season is the injury to its top wide receiver.
“The 49ers expect Michael Crabtree to be back later in the year, but even if he does come back from the torn Achilles how effective can he be?,” he said.
Crabtree tore his Achilles during an OTA workout last month. The former first-round pick was coming off his best season as Colin Kaepernick took over the quarterback duties for the 49ers. Crabtree finished the regular season with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns, all of which were career-highs. The 49ers acquired former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a sixth-round pick. However, Kaepernick needs the team’s young wide receivers to step up to fill Crabtree’s void.
“A month ago it [the wide receiving core] was looking pretty good,” Maiocco said. “Now you have Anquan Boldin as the number one, and who knows who the number two guy is going to be.”
Competing for that second spot are Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton, Kyle Williams and Ricardo Lockette. Manningham is coming off a torn ACL and PCL injury. Jenkins was the team’s 2012 first-round pick, but he dropped the only pass thrown his way last year. Quinton Patton is the team’s 2013 fourth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech. Kyle Williams is infamously known for his muffed punt in the 2012 NFC Championship Game that led to the New York Giants’ game-winning field goal. Lockette has two career receptions, both of which came with Seattle in 2011. Kaepernick must avoid a sophomore slump with an inexperienced wide receiving core.
Defensively, Maiocco is concerned with the secondary. The unit ranked fourth last year in opponent passing yards per game, but all-pro safety Dashon Goldson left the 49ers for Tampa Bay.
“Goldson did set the tone in a lot of ways just with his hitting,” Maiocco said. “He made receivers think twice.”
Donte Whitner, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith are expected to fill any leadership void left by Goldson. The 49ers drafted LSU safety Eric Reid with the 18th overall pick to replace Goldson.
“Whoever they get to play there [safety], and I think it will be Eric Reid, he’s not going to be as good Dashon Goldson was,” Maiocco said.
Running back Frank Gore is coming off back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons but is now 30 years old. Maiocco said Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James are serviceable backups, but that the future of San Francisco’s ground game is in fourth-round pick Marcus Lattimore.
Despite his concerns, Maiocco said the 49ers deserve to still be a Super Bowl contender, along with the Seahawks. Only 97 more days until the two heavyweights get to duke it out at CenturyLink Field on Sunday Night Football.
You can listen to the entire interview here: