In preparation for this week's clash between the Tennessee Titans and the San Francisco 49ers, I exchanged questions and answers with MVN's own Samuel Lam, who writes for Mining the Gold Rush.
In part I of the exchange, Samuel answers the questions posed by Total Titans as he gives us his take on Sunday's Titans/49ers battle.
Total Titans:The one question that most Titans fans want to know is how has Brandon Jones fit in with the 49ers? I know he’s been injured, but how did he look before the injury and what role will he have now that Crabtree, Bruce and Morgan appear to be playing quite well?
Mining the Gold Rush: Jones, prior to his injury, was looking to be the second or third guy on the depth chart at wide receiver. He was developing into a really solid receiver in which the offense knew could rely on. But because of that injury, they had to put him back and since being cleared to play for a couple weeks, he has been seldom used.
He has been in formations, but no passes come his way. The team threw him into a punt returning role but he struggled with that as well. His role now will probably limited for the rest of the year.
This might be one of those signings which at the time made a lot of sense, but as the season rolled along and Crabtree signed, it will be hard to see Jones make any kind of impact this year.
Total Titans: Speaking of Michael Crabtree, what are your initial thoughts and impressions about the talented rookie WR?
Mining the Gold Rush: Just like you said: talented. Right now, I can still tell that he is a little slow on getting his body and mind back into football mode. But from what I have seen, I am impressed with his hands. He has been huge on third down plays (a category the 49ers struggle with) and more importantly, he just becomes a threat.
Not many teams know much on him and the fact that he has so much potential gives the 49ers a huge lift in a struggling passing game. The wait for him to sign was ridiculous, but right now, I am just happy he’s here.
Total Titans: When Frank Gore was out, Glen Coffee was criticized for not reading his blocks well and not hitting the hole quickly enough; his stats seemed to reinforce these claims. Gore’s numbers are much better than Coffee’s, but if you take away Gore’s three big runs, he’s at less than 2.3 per carry.
From what you have seen, was the criticism of Coffee justified, or is the OL simply unable to run block?
Mining the Gold Rush: It’s the offensive line. I never actually truly believed the hype for Gore because of what you had mentioned. His touchdown runs have made his average respectable. But without it, both he and Coffee can look at the struggling offensive line as the reason why they haven’t made big runs.
You can also point out how neither of them are getting a lot of chances to run. On Sunday, Gore only had 13 total carries for 91 yards. Most elite running backs get over 20 carries. If Gore ran the ball more, maybe the outcome of the game would have changed.
Total Titans: Considering Vince Young's attempt at traveling down the road to redemption, we can relate to what you’re probably experiencing in regards to QB Alex Smith's latest chance of becoming the team's franchise signal-caller.
In your opinion, will things be different this time around? Is Smith finally going to justify the team's decision to spend an overall #1 draft pick on him a few years ago?
Mining the Gold Rush: I can’t say if this can help justify it, but this is clearly Smith’s best chance to prove his worth.
Starting his career, he ended up starting every game in his second season. Then after injuries and attempted comebacks, the best thing for Smith was come back in a backup role. This scenario that has unfolded is what Smith needed: no pressure. There isn't pressure for him to succeed, but rather a belief that he can help.
I believe that right now, he is in a situation that should allow him to develop better and give the 49ers a better idea of what they have in Smith. I think right now, the team is more comfortable with him than ever before.
Total Titans: Tell us a little about the maturation of enigmatic TE Vernon Davis, who, after being in Mike Singletary's doghouse last year, is emerging as a formidable weapon in the 49er offense.
Mining the Gold Rush: Quite simply, the offense now asks for Davis to not block as much, but just to go downfield and grab the ball. Davis changed his attitude this year, knowing that his previous seasons had gone to waste and he needed to get his attitude right.
Singletary has been nothing but a positive influence on him since becoming the head coach. Davis has said that knowing that responsibilities he has now as a team captain, he just has to go out there and be the best out there.
Because of that trust, the 49ers offense are utilizing one of their most dangerous weapons. Davis now understands the “team mentality” and is doing everything right in becoming that team leader.
*Tomorrow, in part II of this week's Q&A exchange, I'll provide my answers to Samuel's questions regarding this weekend's Titans/49ers matchup.