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With so many offensive weapons on the San Francisco 49ers roster, the question remains who their No. 1 receiving option should be inside the 20-yard line. There is no question had WR Michael Crabtree been healthy the responsibility would be his, but with his status for the upcoming season in doubt, someone needs to step up and replace him as that deadly red zone threat. Whether it’s a former first-round pick in WR A.J. Jenkins or one of the Top 100 Players in 2013 in WR Anquan Boldin (No. 93), someone needs to fulfill that role as the primary go-to-guy. And I believe that player should be TE Vernon Davis.
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Davis has always been a defensive coordinator’s nightmare when it comes to match-ups. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Davis has the frame to be a big body target. From head to toe, the guy is shredded like a body building sculpture while possessing the blazing 4.38 40-yard dash speed to excel in red zone opportunities. Voted by his peers ranking No. 38 on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2013, Davis is a true headache for any linebacker or defensive back, and should be the primary target when getting behind enemy lines, as more often times than not, he will come out on top.
Another factor that favors the former All-Pro in the red zone, is his ability to block. This was evident in a Week 7 matchup against the hated Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football. In a play that was designed for Davis on the 12-yard line, the play broke down leaving QB Alex Smith to look for TE Delanie Walker instead. The score sealed a 49ers 13-6 victory, however it was Davis’ blocking inside the red zone that sprung Walker. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke on the play as well as Davis’ elite blocking skills, saying:
Vernon had one of his best games. His blocking was outstanding. Certainly, the touchdown block highlights it, but he’s blocking Red Bryant pretty consistently the entire game. He just did one heck of a job and allowed our center, our guards to work the tackles and up to the linebackers which creates some huge holes in the middle. We could not have done that without Vernon Davis blocking their 350-pound defensive end. He was wearing the sombrero a big part of the game and it led to some huge plays.
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A player that I dubbed as the best-all around tight-end in the game, it’s Davis’ blocking that defenses at times may not view him as a red zone target, which in turn then makes him a great “sleeper” option. A simple play-action pass worked well in red-zone opportunities last season, as Davis caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from QB Colin Kaepernick in the first quarter. Working off a smash-mouth running game, offensive coordinator Greg Roman keeps the defense honest by not allowing them to stack the box, and when they do, he makes them pay for it, as three of Davis’ five touchdown receptions last season came inside the opponents five-yard line.
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Aside from his god-given physique and physical skill-set, Davis should be the primary target in red zone opportunities simply because no one can stop him. In 2009, Davis ran many go/fly routes in the red zone and despite being double and even triple teamed, Davis still came down with the ball. In his best season statistically, Davis recorded 78 receptions, 965 yards, and a 13 touchdowns. I’m not saying Kaepernick should force the ball to Davis in these situations, but if a one-on-one or even on-on-two situation arises, Kaepernick should trust Davis enough to look his way during these match-ups, as Davis has the size and vertical (42 inches) to catch the ball at it’s highest point.
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