Reinforcements are on the way for the 49ers, and none are more important than the return of wide receiver Mario Manningham. San Francisco’s passing offense is in the cellar when Colin Kaepernick is targeting receivers not named Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis. While everybody is complaining about how horrible Tom Brady’s target are, not many are attributing Kaepernick’s sophomore slump to a lack of starting-quality wide receivers.
Let’s play a little game — without looking, tell me which of these stat lines belongs to Kyle Williams and which belongs to fullback Bruce Miller:
A. 10 catches on 14 targets for 93 yards and no touchdowns, long of 17 yards
B. 10 catches on 21 targets for 101 yards and no touchdowns, long of 16 yards
If you guessed that A is Miller and B is Williams, congratulations. Williams has played roughly 61% of the 49ers’ offensive snaps this season and he’s still only garnered 21 targets through six games. What’s worse, he’s only actually hauled in 10 of them. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ fullback has been much more productive in the passing game. He’s caught 71% of the passes coming his way and has nearly the same number of yards. The lack of production from the 49ers’ No. 2 wideout (to start the season, anyway) is staggering.
Kaepernick hasn’t been fantastic throwing the ball this year, but Williams hasn’t helped his cause either. Pro Football Focus has him graded out as -3.4 in the passing game after six weeks, while contributing absolutely nothing as a run blocker. His value on special teams may actually be overstated too: Williams has only attempted eight punt returns for 57 yards, with a league-high 16 fair catches.
And here I was, thinking the 49ers wouldn’t miss Ted Ginn Jr.
I thought the sports talk radio clamor for the 49ers to give up on Williams was silly during the preseason, but at this point it’s hard to disagree. He can’t get off the line, he isn’t stretching the field and he’s not catching the football. Roster spots will need to come available when San Francisco gets Manningham and Michael Crabtree back. The only thing that’ll keep Williams on the team is his status as the team’s No. 1 punt returner, unless the 49ers get impatient with his conservative style of returning and give someone else a shot … like LaMichael James.