There’s no question the 49ers have lost a lot this offseason, from a proven head coach and staff to veterans such as Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Frank Gore.
Yet they’ve also gained something over the past few months: speed.
The 49ers team that assembled this week for a full-squad, three-day minicamp appears to have much better team speed than the 2014 team, especially on offense.
The 49ers added deep-threat receiver Torrey Smith from the Ravens, former Vikings and Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson and running back Reggie Bush. Plus, tight end Vernon Davis – who had a down season in 2014 – appears as quick as ever in these offseason practices. And second-year receiver Bruce Ellington could play a bigger role and running back Kendall Hunter is back from missing a year due to injury.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin says that additional speed should spread defenses and allow the 49ers more room to operate – especially in the scheme of new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, who’s installed a quicker-paced scheme that includes more no-huddle, a faster operating tempo, a simplified playbook and more screens and short passes (to Bush and Hunter) as well as more deep throws.
“Just looking at practice yesterday, you see not only Torrey, but a guy like Jerome Simpson,” Boldin said Wednesday, in reference to the speed in minicamp. “You’ve got Vernon … these guys are flying around. You definitely see a lot more speed on the outside.”
The 49ers’ passing attack was ranked 30th in the NFL in 2014, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick hopes the team can have more success this year by throwing deep. Receivers such as Smith and Simpson will help, he says.
“They bring a lot of speed to the field, a lot of deep, vertical threat,” he told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “That’s something I’m looking forward to this coming season, having the opportunity to take (deep) shots.”