As the San Francisco 49ers prepare to fly under the radar this season, I believe they will be just fine. A team that lost plenty of key players along with the majority of their coaching staff — there seems to be little hope for a team that went to three consecutive Championship games from 2011-2014.
However, all is not lost and one offensive duo that should have their way in 2015 is the emergence of franchise QB Colin Kaepernick and five-year veteran WR Torrey Smith.
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Below are three reasons why I believe the Kap-to-Smith connection will be heard loud and clear throughout the season. And while Kaepernick still needs some work on his ‘touch,’ there is no doubt in my mind he is much improved this season.
The 49ers have desperately needed a deep-threat wide-receiver dating back to the days when WR Terrell Owens was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2004. The arrogant, enigmatic, yet talented wide-receiver was the 49ers best offensive weapon for four seasons (2000-2003), but run-ins with the coaching staff and players eventually was too much to handle and as a result was traded away.
Since then the 49ers have been searching endlessly for that coveted skill-set. They experimented with WR Antonio Bryant, WR Isaac Bruce, and most recently WR Michael Crabtree but none could create the week-to-week mismatch that Owens demanded.
Fast forward to 2015 and the 49ers may have found that man, as Smith has the skill-set to take the top off the defense.
Speed kills in the NFL and Smith has the wheels to turn on the after-burners. Whether cutting in-and-out of his breaks on a hitch or quick slant to hitting the second-gear to separate from safeties, Smith can become Kaepernick’s primary deep-threat if the two can build a strong rapport with each other.
We all know that Smith has the jets but it’s the third-gear that should have Forever Faithful excited. Smith is one of those special players that can track down overthrown balls and that’s when his third-gear becomes an asset.
Let’s be honest, Kaepernick is not the most accurate quarterback in the NFL, but he does have a cannon for an arm. How many times have we seen Kap overthrow a wide-open TE Vernon Davis or Crabtree on a skinny post or fade/go-route? Too many. They just don’t have that third-gear to turn it on — Smith does. Look for Smith to make some spectacular plays starting Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings as I believe the two will hook-up for a 40-plus yard gain.
While Smith has the speed to stretch the defense, it’s his catching radius that should create problems for defensive backs. At 6-1, 204, Smith is a big red-zone target who boasts a 41-inch vertical. If Smith is matched up one-on-one on the outside, expect Kap to throw a fade-route to Smith as he has the ability to high-point the ball with ease. Something that didn’t happen last week in the first-quarter against the Dallas Cowboys, expect that to change come Week 1.
Aside from his hops, it’s Smith’s willingness as a blocker that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Whether springing a running back with a downfield block or laying the hat on defensive back, Smith is an aggressive blocker who prides himself on every snap. You won’t see him taking plays off or dogging it when the play is not called to his side, and that should help Kaepernick as Smith could be a decoy on a deep-route which would then open the underneath crossing routes for WR Anquan Boldin and Davis.
With the 49ers looking to get back to their read-option running game, do not be surprised if they also move off the play-action pass as Smith has the speed and catching radius to get it done on any given play.
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