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Camp Preview: Wide Receivers

Posted Jul 5, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers are set for training camp to begin at the end of the month. But before the team can defend its NFC West division crown this upcoming season, let’s take a look at the depth of each position group on the roster as they prepare for camp. Wide receivers are up next.

OVERVIEW

Despite missing all of the exhibition season for a third consecutive year, Michael Crabtree produced when the games counted in the regular season, leading the 49ers in receptions (72) and receiving yards (874) for the first time in his career. Crabtree put together career highs in both categories in just 14 starts. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound wideout, who has the best hands head coach Jim Harbaugh has ever seen, will have even more receiving help in 2012 with free agent additions Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, plus first-round pick A.J. Jenkins being added to the perimeter group. Moss, 35, feels good enough at his age to contribute to an offense in need of additional vertical threats in the passing game. With 954 career receptions, 14,858 receiving yards and 153 receiving touchdowns to his credit, Moss entered the 49ers facility with a team-first mindset, looking to share his wisdom with new teammates. Not only has Moss mentored all of the receivers on the roster, but the wideout who sits in the front row of the meeting room has impressed his teammates and coaches with his knowledge of the game. Jenkins, a 2011 first-team All-Big Ten performer, gives San Francisco a weapon in the passing game who can line up outside the numbers on the perimeter and in the slot. Receivers with return ability, Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams, are the only returning 49ers wideouts (besides Crabtree) who caught 19 or more passes in 2011. The presumed top six receivers on the depth chart, (Crabtree, Moss, Manningham, Jenkins, Ginn and Williams), will face tough competition from several up-and-coming wideouts who are eager to make the most of their opportunities in practice and in preseason contests. Crabtree, too, is hopeful he’ll make the most of the exhibition season for the first time of his career, telling 49ers.com earlier this offseason that he’s in the best shape of his football career.

DEPTH

RETURNERS: Michael Crabtree (fourth season), Ted Ginn Jr. (sixth season, third with San Francisco), Kyle Williams (third season), Brett Swain (fourth season, second with San Francisco), and Joe Hastings (second season). NEWCOMERS: Randy Moss (14th season, first with San Francisco), Mario Manningham (fifth season, first with San Francisco). A.J. Jenkins (first-round pick, No. 30 overall, Illinois), Chris Owusu (undrafted, Stanford), Nathan Palmer (undrafted, N. Illinois), Brian Tyms, (undrafted, Florida A&M).

Wide receivers coach John Morton has a lot to work with this coming training camp, 11 talented wideouts with unique skill sets to be exact. In addition to working with five returning players from last year’s roster who already have an understanding of offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s system, Morton will be working with a skillful group of young wideouts, who are soaking up knowledge from the veterans. Moss’ Hall of Fame candidacy could be cemented in San Francisco with a season to remember. Manningham, meanwhile, is looking to carve out greater moments in an already promising career.  The former New York Giant made arguably the biggest play in last year’s Super Bowl, a 38-yard catch to set up the go-ahead touchdown, and went right back to work this offseason. Manningham displayed the same athleticism, route-running and possession skills that made him one of the league’s top emerging wideouts. Behind Jenkins, many of the rookie wide receivers have stood out in the team’s offseason program with their own eye-catching plays. Now, the youthful group will aim to take advantage of practice time in training camp as well as playing time in the preseason. One of the undrafted wideouts, Stanford’s Chris Owusu, enters camp with a leg up on his competitors having already played for a Harbaugh-coached team.

STANDOUT STAT

6

The number of wins recorded by the 49ers in 2011 when out-passing opponents. The 49ers were a perfect 6-0 in such games.

QUOTABLE

“I know this organization wants the Super Bowl but I’ve always tried to take it one game at a time. That’s a long-term goal for us to get to the Super Bowl, but first of all, you’ve got to take it one game at a time, win your division, make the playoffs and then you can look at the end of the road and that’s the Super Bowl ring.”

-New 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss on Mar. 12, the day he signed a one-year contract with the club.