Season in review: Wide receivers

SFI breaks down the 49ers' 2006 season by position, analyzing what went right and wrong during the year and identifying the changes that took place and the players who stood out during the course of the season. Who's the unit MVP, the biggest disappointment and the biggest surprise? Who overachieved and underachieved? Who's on the rise and on the slide? It's all here. Today: Wide receivers

Wide receivers on final 53-man roster: Darrell Jackson, Arnaz Battle, Ashley Lelie, Jason Hill, Bryan Gilmore, Michael Lewis

Starters in season opener: Darrell Jackson, Arnaz Battle

Starters in season finale: Darrell Jackson, Arnaz Battle

Unit MVP: Arnaz Battle

Top newcomer: Darrell Jackson

Most improved: None

Biggest disappointment: Darrell Jackson

Biggest surprise: That newcomers Jackson and Lelie, both veterans who have experienced success elsewhere in the NFL, were unable to upgrade this unit by any tangible measure.

On the rise: None

On the slide: Darrell Jackson, Ashley Lelie

Overachiever: Arnaz Battle

Underachiever: Darrell Jackson, Jason Hill

What went right: Battle proved to be what he is - a solid complementary receiver who would best be suited in a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver role. Instead, for the second consecutive season, he led all San Francisco wideouts in receptions with 50 for 600 yards, a 12.0 average that led all San Francisco receivers with more than seven receptions. Battle also led the team with five touchdown catches and scored on a reverse in the final seconds of the season opener to give the 49ers a 20-17 victory over Arizona. Battle's six touchdowns tied running back Frank Gore for the team lead. Battle had five receptions in a game twice and a season-high six catches against New York in Week 7 and against St. Louis in Week 11, when he also had his season high of 86 receiving yards. Jackson had a season-high for San Francisco wideouts with eight receptions for 86 yards to spark a Week 15 victory over Cincinnati. Lelie's first reception of the season went for 47 yards, and Gilmore's first reception after joining the team in Week 5 went for 42 yards. Gilmore averaged a team-leading 15.9 yards on his seven receptions. As usual, Battle was an outstanding blocker down the field.

What went wrong: Jackson never was able to get untracked in the offense and become the No. 1 receiving threat the 49ers envisioned when they traded a fourth-round draft pick to Seattle on draft weekend to acquire him. Both Jackson and Battle finished the season with a team-high seven dropped passes. Jackson had four or more receptions in just five games and had two or fewer in seven games. The 49ers never figured out a way to get the most out of Lelie's ability, and he went without a reception in 11 of San Francisco's 16 games. The starting receivers - Jackson and Battle - had difficulty consistently getting open even against man coverage. Tayor Jacobs, who won the No. 3 receiver job in training camp, proved to be a bust in that role and was released after four games. Third-round draft pick Jason Hill was a non-factor in his rookie season and was inactive in 11 games. He finished the season with just one reception for six yards. San Francisco's entire receiver corps finished with just 117 receptions for 1,258 yards and nine touchdowns - very weak totals.

Looking forward in 2008: The 49ers need to continue looking for new receivers who can upgrade this unit during the offseason, and they will look to both the draft and free agency to make that happen. With the offense now being designed by new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, it remains to be seen how the receiving talent now on the roster will fit into that attack. Battle and Jackson enter the offseason as marginal starters for 2008, and both figure to face open competition for their jobs this year. The 49ers hope to see some significant development out of Hill in his second season, and it's possible Martz's pass-happy ways will bring out the best in holdover receivers who have put up pedestrian numbers while with the 49ers.

Final 2007 unit grade: D-minus


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