Manningham Displays All-Around Skills


He hasn't been volunteering a ton of personal information since joining the San Francisco 49ers this offseason, but Mario Manningham was in a sharing mood during his Thursday press conference from 49ers headquarters.

In fact, the ex-New York Giants wide receiver who is set to face his former teammates this weekend saved his best material as he walked off the podium.

"My favorite color is red," Manningham said, "in case y'all wanted to know."

The free agent addition had plenty of quality sound bites when speaking to a mix of Bay Area and national reporters.

In addition to declaring his favorite color, the 6-foot, 185-pound wideout, explained his ability to catch deep sideline passes with excellent body control comes from Manningham's front-yard childhood football games in Warren, Ohio.

Manningham said the 6-on-6 games had strict rules, too. Each player had to catch the ball with two feet inbounds and not one foot like in most pickup games around the country.

The early emphasis on body control has carried over into the fifth-year wideout's promising NFL career. It clearly helped his 38-yard sideline catch in last season's Super Bowl victory for the Giants.

"You had to get two feet in – if you didn't have two feet in, you weren't getting in," Manningham explained. "That has a little to play with it."

When asked to guess his playing age during those cramped football contests, Manningham had the whole room chuckling after he explained, "I was knee-high to a duck."

Because of those early football games, Manningham has developed into one of the best route-runners in the business. In his first year with the 49ers, the former New York third-round pick has caught 19 passes for 186 yards. Last week, Manningham added his first touchdown catch of his 49ers career in a 45-3 win over the Buffalo Bills.

"Mario is a very talented receiver," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "He's got a great feel for the game. He understands leverage; he understands how to get open. He's got really, really, extremely good feet and he's done nothing but a great job with catching the ball for us."

But that was just the half of it.

"He's fast," Roman continued, "straight line speed. He can get in and out of cuts really quickly and he also knows how to set up routes. Mario is a guy with a great attitude, shows up to work every day and gets his job done. He's done a great job. I think Mario is a guy we can keep evolving with. I think he's a very talented football player. He's got a real tough mentality."

Manningham's first touchdown with the 49ers was all a result of out-thinking an unsuspecting Bills defensive back.

"I kind of set him up," Manningham said of his 10-yard touchdown catch. "I made him think I was going inside. He fell for it, so I made sure I came out my route flat and Alex (Smith) threw a good ball. I was pretty wide open on that."

Manningham's done a solid job in route-running, but he's also added a new dimension to his game with the 49ers – running the football on well-designed reverse runs.

"I like the reverses," said Manningham, who has picked up 57 yards on two carries so far this season. "In four years (with the Giants) I had two reverses. In four months I've had two reverses here."

Running the football is something the new 49ers wideout continues to master, but Manningham's ability to control his body down the boundary is constant. Sideline catches while tapping toes or dragging toes, all while maintaining balance was evident from Manningham's early practice sessions with his new club.

"We've seen him practice, just starting in our OTA's, make some really, really great catches on the boundary," Roman explained. "And then it's highlighted by one of the biggest plays ever in the Super Bowl, Super Bowl history was that catch he made. Which was pretty remarkable if you really go back and look at it. It was something. He knows where he is on the field and he's very talented."

Manningham also knows the personnel he'll face this week.

Besides trading texts with close friends Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks (who returned to practice on Thursday on a limited basis), Manningham know what he'll see in Giants cornerbacks Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara.

Manningham said the familiarity has made preparation easier this week.

"I know the DBs, how they play, how they press, how patient they are at the line," Manningham explained. "It makes it a little bit easier."

New York enters Sunday's matchup allowing an average of 261.4 (t-22nd in the NFL) and will face a 49ers team coming off its first 300-yard passing game of the season.

Manningham said he's spoken to his defensive teammates about the offense they'll face this Sunday. The former Giants wideout is more focused on out-performing his former defensive backs whichever way they choose to defend him and his new teammates.

"I don't know how they're going to play," said Manningham, who caught 160 passes for 2,315 yards and 18 touchdowns in four seasons with New York. "It doesn't matter, they can press, play off. I feel like we have a great offense no matter what they do."

The biggest takeaway Manningham shared with his new teammates about his former colleagues was the mindset the visiting team will take into Candlestick Park this Sunday.

Teams from the NFC West are a combined 10-0 at home to start the 2012 season. It marks the first time in league history that a division is unbeaten or untied at home through five weeks.

"I know what type of game we're about to play on Sunday," Manningham said. "I know how they get started. I know how they roll. Believe me, when they come here, they're going to be ready to play. I know they'll be ready to play."

So will the 49ers.

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