The San Francisco 49ers will be getting some help at the wide receiver position soon. Mario Manningham is set to be activated for their next game against the Carolina Panthers. I spoke to him a few weeks ago and he was very excited about getting back on the field. He told me that he was targeting this game for his return with a big smile on his face. His eyes lit up when he spoke about getting back on the field. I could feel his excitement about playing again. He will bring some much needed experience to the 49ers. The casual fan may not realize the value that Manningham brings. We will take a closer look at what his return means to the 49ers offense.
Manningham is not a burner but he is able to stretch the field. This is because of his extremely savvy route running ability. He is good at setting his routes up and using head fakes to get open. Manningham is able to win most one on one matchups which is something that he faces often on the outside.
If you go back to the 2011 season, you will see Manningham step up in the two biggest games of the year for the New York Giants. The NFC Championship against the 49ers was one of those games. Manningham lined up on the outside in a trips formation and ran a post route against a zone coverage. He was able to beat Tramaine Brock for a 17 yard touchdown catch. He set it up by leaning to the outside and giving a head fake before he stuck his foot in the ground to break to the post. This froze Brock and allowed Manningham to get enough separation for Eli Manning to get the ball to him in the end zone.
The best play came in the Super Bowl when Manningham made an unbelievable catch against the New England Patriots. He made a catch on the sideline that required extreme concentration. Manning dropped the ball perfectly into a spot on the sideline while Manningham made a finger tip catch. He was able to haul it in knowing that then Patriot safety Patrick Chung was bearing down on him. Chung delivered a big hit but Manningham was able to keep his feet in bounds. This was a 38 yard catch from the Giants nine yard line. It was a big play during the drive that resulted in the go ahead touchdown.
Manningham is still able to make these kinds of plays. He is the kind of veteran receiver that will be a viable second receiver option to Anquan Boldin. The 49ers have been searching for a second receiver and failed to find one in Jonathan Baldwin, Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore. Prior to his injury, Manningham was a receiver that Kaepernick trusted. The two connected on 13 out of 17 targets over three and a half games in which Kaepernick was the starter.
Having a threat to single coverage on the outside will help draw some attention away from Boldin and Vernon Davis. Manningham’s presence will give the 49ers another option in the passing game. He also can make some big gains running the ball. Last year, Manningham had a 29 yard run against the Detroit Lions and a 28 yard run against the New York Jets. Furthermore, he is a good option on bubble screens. To sum it all up, Manningham is a receiver that will make things easier for Kaepernick. He is capable of catching a short pass whether it be a screen or even a hitch route and turning it into a big play. This is what the 49ers passing game needs.
Look for the 49ers offense to get better as Manningham is able to further work his way back from his injury. The offense will be given another weapon. Make no mistake, they will still be a run first team but Manningham will help improve the passing game.