The 49ers spent a lot of time this offseason upgrading elements of their passing game.
They signed wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham as free agents before drafting A.J. Jenkins, another wide receiver, in the first round. The 49ers wideouts failed to impress last season, so it made sense for the Niners to address the position. They also added Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James, though, and the addition of two new running backs suggests that the overhaul at the receiver spot doesn’t necessarily mean a change in offensive priorities.
As does the return of quarterback Alex Smith. Smith had a good season running an offense that asked him to avoid mistakes first and foremost and, at the risk of sounding like a diabolical doubter, their “evaluation” of Peyton Manning sent a pretty strong message that they wanted something more at the quarterback spot.
Former 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice likely agrees with that thought, although he doesn’t seem to have any problem with Smith being the guy asked to do more. Nate Davis of USA Today reports that Rice expressed that opinion in emphatic terms.
“I seriously think they got to take the diaper off this guy and let him play,” said Rice. “Let him be a grown man.”
Wes Welker takes serious issue with Rice’s belief that one can’t be a grown man and wear diapers.
The additions to the receiving corps, the presence of tight end Vernon Davis and the continuity of the offensive scheme combine to give Smith his best hand since coming to San Francisco as the first pick of the 2005 Draft. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers allow him to play it out and, if they do, Smith’s ability to lead an undiapered life will determine how far the 49ers go this season.