Is wide out still a concern for 49ers?

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I break down the San Francisco 49ers’ receiving corps.

It would be an understatement to say that San Francisco 49ers fans long for the days when Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Terrell Owens lined up at wide receiver. Ever since the 49ers traded Owens after the 2003 season, they’ve had a void at wide out. Actually, a Grand Cannon-sized hole might be a better description.

After signing longtime St. Louis Rams’ great Isaac Bruce and veteran Bryant Johnson (Cardinals) this offseason, as well as selecting Jason Hill and Josh Morgan in the past two drafts, the 49ers hope they’ve finally solved their issues at wide receiver.

But have they?

Bruce is still adding to an already fantastic career, but one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank. Still, he’s a viable starter, knows new offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s offense and will provide veteran leadership in the locker room. As of now, he’s penciled in as one of the two starters.

But the other two positions appear to be wide open with Hill, Morgan, Johnson, Arnaz Battle and Ashley Lelie all vying for playing time. Johnson and Battle have battled injuries this preseason, which have given youngsters Morgan and Hill opportunities to turn some heads.

Morgan hauled in five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the Niners’ second preseason game, so the spot opposite Bruce looks like his to lose. Hill might have the inside track for the No. 3 receiver role after catching four passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in San Fran’s third preseason game. A former third round pick in 2007, Hill has outstanding speed and excellent height. Both he and Morgan have more upside than Lelie, who might not even make the roster.

A trio of Bruce, Morgan and Hill won’t keep defensive coordinators up at night, but the x-factor is Martz’s offense. It made Kevin Curtis and Mike Furrey into playmakers and might do the same for Morgan and Hill. Martz likes to confuse opponents by making defenders jump underneath routes and then throwing over top of them. The goal is for receivers to find open space, make the catch and get up field. The system doesn’t require superstars at the receiver position, which is a plus for the Niners because they don’t have any.

If quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan can step up and play well in Martz’s system, it shouldn’t matter who the receivers are as long as they’re not dropping passes. Time will tell if the 49ers have finally solved their issues at receiver, or if fans will spend yet another offseason begging for more help at the position.

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