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This was going to be the season when the 49ers’ offense started closing ground on the team’s defense.
After all, quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed a lucrative contract extension, they added some wide receivers and the 49ers’ defense knew from the beginning of the season it would be short-handed.
But the offense is among the worst in the NFL, and the 49ers’ defense continues to be one of the best.
And that leads off this edition of 49ers Mailbag:
Why is the 49ers offense so vanilla? They have 4 decent WR's, a Pro Bowl TE (even if he isn't playing like one), a Hall of Fame RB and a mobile QB.... They have the weapons, What's up? (John Falabella)
I’m not sure the 49ers’ offense is vanilla. Colin Kaepernick is third in the NFL, as far as pass attempts of 20 yards or more. And he has the second-most rushing yards among quarterbacks.
The 49ers continue to feature a lot of shifts, motions and formations in the running game, too.
The problem? Kaepernick is not connecting on those deep passes (34.4 percent). And the running game has not been effective in creating confusion for opposing defenses, fullback Bruce Miller pointed out this week. The 49ers are averaging a lowly 3.59 yards on first-and-10 rushing attempts, and that’s not a good way to start a series of downs.
The 49ers stripped down their playbook in the offseason in an attempt to help them solve some of the play clock issues that plagued them. But it has come at a cost.
“I do think we’ve simplified things quite a bit,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “That can be an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage as well. I’d say there’s a little bit of that maybe. But, the overall theme is really we’ve simplified things and that’s good sometimes and sometimes it’s not so good.
“It’s really a results-oriented thing. If it works, it’s good. If it doesn’t, it’s not.”
There not one area that is entirely to blame. The offensive line has rarely been intact this season with right tackle Anthony Davis missing most of the season with injuries and center Daniel Kilgore lost to a fractured leg.
Vernon Davis is having a bad season. Frank Gore is nearing the end. Kaepernick and the wide receivers have yet to click. And Roman has yet to find a way to make it work.
Really, the only person on offense who is living up to expectations is Anquan Boldin.
With all the talent at WR, who has the best chance at staying with us for the 2015 season? (Mic R. Williams)
Boldin will be back. Bruce Ellington will be back. Quinton Patton, who has yet to suit up for a game this season, continues to work hard in practices and figures to have a chance to get into the mix next season.
Michael Crabtree is scheduled to hit free agency, and he might look for a change of scenery. And there would not appear to be a compelling reason for Brandon Lloyd’s return.
Again, wide receiver is a position that should be near the top of the list of draft priorities.
What's the progress of Tank Carradine? (George Mumaw)
Carradine, the 49ers’ second-round draft pick in 2013, had his best game last week against Seattle as part of the team’s defensive line rotation. He played a career-high 23 snaps and came through with seven tackles (according to the coaches’ review of the film) and two tackles of loss.
“Just like anything you do in life, the more you do it, the better you’re going to get at it,” Justin Smiths said. “He keeps getting reps and getting out there and plays better every rep he gets. You become more aware of what you’re trying to do and what’s going on around you: How the defense fits off you? You got to be where you got to be, but why do you got to be where you got to be? I think all that stuff is starting to click for him.”