Insider analysis: Isaac Bruce

As proven, productive NFL veteran wide receivers go, the 49ers picked up free agent Isaac Bruce at a bargain rate, particularly considering his history with Mike Martz, the team's new offensive coordinator. But does the aging Bruce still have the juice to make a difference in bringing the San Francisco offense back to life? Rams expert Howard Balzer spends some time at SFI to tell us about Bruce.

Howard Balzer, www.gridirongateway.com: Even though he will turn 36 in November, there is no better route-runner than Isaac Bruce.

A consummate professional, he is soft-spoken but carries a lot of weight in the locker room. He should help younger players get better, just by virtue of his work ethic and attention to detail.

Knowing the Mike Martz offense is a big plus, and there's also no question Bruce will be motivated to show the Rams they made a mistake.

While his 2007 numbers were down, Bruce missed two early-season games, and the entire offense struggled all season. He still averaged 13.3 yards per reception, which was higher than star teammate Torry Holt (12.8).

Bruce certainly doesn't have the speed he once did, but defenses still respect him, and he can still get open.

Craig Massei's take: Take another look at Howard's final remark: Defenses still respect Bruce, and he still can get open. When's the last time anybody's been able to say that about a San Francisco wide receiver in the same sentence? Sure, there's some trepidation about bringing in Bruce and expecting him to be a No. 1-type wideout because of his advancing age and the fact he has the wear and tear of 14 NFL seasons on his wheels, which have no doubt slowed down a bit. But Bruce has taken care of his body, and the guy still looks to have something left - and more than just a little something. From their standpoint, the Rams probably made a wise business decision in not paying Bruce the roster bonus this month that it would have taken to retain his services, since they need to start getting younger at the position. But after listening to Bruce talk when he became a 49er, that slight will only push him to put it back in the Rams' faces with a big year for St. Louis' chief division rival. It's a little scary to think that Bruce was once a Los Angeles Ram - yes, he goes back that far - but he is going to be that knowledgeable, wily veteran that will be where he's supposed to be on passing patterns and use his experience and skill to get open. He still has quick feet and great body control to adjust to passes, and his savvy in reading defenses, finding soft spots in zones and adjusting routes when he reads blitz are intangibles that are certain to help the 49ers. Besides the obvious presence of proven star power he will bring to the locker room, perhaps the most vital thing Bruce brings to the 49ers is his experience in Martz's system, which should help the team's overall transition to a new offense. And, since Martz already has come out and said Bruce will be his starting flanker, there is no doubt that Bruce has a starting job to lose on a team that is desperate for new starting talent at receiver. For comparison's sake, Jerry Rice was still putting up huge numbers for the 49ers when he was 36. Now, Bruce may not be Jerry Rice, but he's relatively close - speaking from a historical perspective and in the now. Bruce doesn't solve the 49ers' problems at receiver for the future, but he may be able to do that for a season or two - which is all the team needs from him.


Niners Digest Top Stories