By Jerrell Richardson
With a record of 4-3, San Francisco has not exactly hit the ground running in 2014, but there are plenty of positives from the first half, which could mean a very promising second half of the season. Two big reasons San Francisco has a winning record, and is still in the thick of the playoff hunt is the play of Perrish Cox and Stevie Johnson. There have been several 49ers who have enjoyed a good start to the season, but in terms of a much needed boost, it’s been Cox and Johnson that have helped keep the 49ers right where they want to be.
Despite the team’s modest record, there are few players who stand out for their lack of production. Frank Gore has not had his best start, but he is still averaging 4 yards per pop and is on pace for another 1,000 yard season. The pass rush has been nonexistent for the most part, but the return of Aldon Smith will change that. Otherwise the team has inflicted their own wounds and cost themselves a victory in each of their 3 losses this year. The only player who has failed to live up to expectations has been Vernon Davis.
Cox Playing At An Elite Level
Perrish Cox is playing as well as any defensive back in the league. He has 3 interceptions (tied for 2nd), and leads the league in passes defended with 12. What makes him such a stud though is that he is not even supposed to be starting. He was thrust into the starting role after Tramaine Brock’s injury and with outstanding play has made it impossible for the team to even think about taking him off the field. The 49er secondary has seen its fair share of injuries this season, yet the one constant is Cox. Not bad if the player playing the best is the one who has been there every Sunday for the team. Cox had been reliable and a playmaker for a secondary that had more questions than answers to start the season. Even after the thrashing at the hands of the Broncos the 49ers are still the 10th best pass defense in the league and a lot of that has to do with Perrish Cox.
SF Native Fitting Right In
While Stevie Johnson has put up 1,000 yards in a season before, nobody thought he was coming to the 49ers to do the same. In fact with Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree already comfortable with Colin Kaepernick, Johnson figured to be fighting with Brandon Lloyd for the left overs. Not only has Johnson clearly emerged as the teams 3rd option, he is the team’s most consistent receiver, and depending on how you look at it, perhaps their most productive. Of course Bolin (39) and Crabtree (32) are the team’s leading receivers, but Johnson’s 25 receptions are a close 3rd. Johnson is tied with Crabtree with 3 touchdowns (team lead), and has a higher per catch average then both Boldin and Crabtree. What is perhaps the most impressive number though is the number of targets. The ball has been thrown to him 32 times this season. With 25 catches, it doesn’t take a math major to figure out that Johnson is catching pretty much everything thrown to him.
Davis A Disappointment
It’s not all roses though in 49er land. Tight end Vernon Davis has done little or nothing to help out the offense. This season he has 14 catches, 142 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both touchdowns came in week 1, and otherwise Davis has been a no-show. He has dealt with injuries, and missed a game, but his numbers are still a far cry from what is expected from him. For an offense that no longer relies heavily on the run Davis should have much better numbers. With the god giving talents he has, there is no reason for Davis to have the anemic numbers he has posted in 2014. What really makes Davis frustrating, is that knowing what he can do, the team has forced the ball to him which has not worked out well. Compare his thrown to and catch ratio to Johnson. Davis has been throw to 23 times to get him his 14 receptions. Davis needs to get himself healthy then get on the field and show the team if he is still capable of taking over a game. In the meantime the offense needs to stop going out of their way to get him involved.
Don’t Let The Record Fool You
Despite a record that some may feel is a dud, the fact remains that the 49ers are more or less on track for a playoff run. Yes they could be 6-1, but they aren’t, and who had them sitting at 6-1 at the bye when the season started? The only team that San Francisco has lined up against and been outplayed is the Denver Broncos, who oh by the way is arguably the best team in the NFL.
Individually everyone on the 49ers is more or less doing their job outside of Davis. Johnson and Cox are welcome surprises on a team that continues to be one of the most complete in the NFL. If the 49ers continue to get the contributions from Cox and Johnson, added with the return of some big names on both sides of the ball, San Francisco is going to be a dangerous team the rest of the way. Even if not able to post big numbers, Davis needs to at least figure out his role in the offense and contribute in whatever way needed to get this team into the playoffs.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.