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Morgan quickly emerging as 49ers' go-to receiving target

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Josh Morgan is breaking out from the San Francisco 49ers' logjam at wide receiver.

The second-year pro continues to build on his promising rookie season and a standout spring. Now he's challenging not only for a starting position but also to be the 49ers' No. 1 passing target.

Training camp blog

The absence of rookie WR Michael Crabtree has meant more opportunities for the 49ers' other receivers to impress, including Josh Morgan, who has stood out in camp. **More ...**

"That's the kind of goal you set for yourself," Morgan said Monday. "You want to be that No. 1 receiver. When everything is on the line, you want them to go to you and know you are going to make the play. So that's my attitude and how I go about things."

The 49ers haven't had a legitimate No. 1 receiver since Terrell Owens left after the 2003 season. Isaac Bruce has been the closest thing to it since then, leading the team with 61 receptions for 835 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Bruce is back with the 49ers this year for his 16th NFL season and again figures to play a prominent role. But the team is grooming Morgan to make a bigger impact, particularly with first-round draft pick Michael Crabtree still unsigned and not yet in training camp.

The 49ers took Crabtree 10th overall and spent $16.6 million to acquire free-agent wide receiver Brandon Jones during the offseason.

"It might sound weird, but I was happy about us bringing those guys in," Morgan said. "There's a lot of receivers out there now, a lot of talent, and that's only going to make you better, make you elevate your play and make you bring out your best every day."

The 49ers also have veterans Arnaz Battle, Jason Hill and Dominique Zeigler on the roster -- that trio combined for 59 receptions last year -- giving the team seven legitimate receivers competing in camp.

But Morgan is quickly emerging as a front-runner. One of the team's stars of spring workouts, Morgan has carried that over to the summer and has been shining on a daily basis in camp.

"For a big-bodied guy his size, for a big receiver, he has excellent explosion," new 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said. "He doesn't look like he would have that kind of explosion, but he's an explosive guy and a great leaper. His circumference range, because of his arms, is very good. He can get to some balls with extension that some guys can't. So his progress has been good, and he's doing a good job."

The 219-pound Morgan's combination of size, strength, speed and sticky hands was on display Sunday when he hauled in a deep pass from quarterback Alex Smith. Morgan got behind safety Dashon Goldson, who interfered with him as the ball arrived. But Morgan still was able to make the grab with one hand, then used his thick legs to break Goldson's tackle attempt and streak away for a touchdown.

It's the kind of thing that Morgan has been doing since he arrived in San Francisco last year as an unheralded sixth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech. Morgan broke into the 49ers' starting lineup during the exhibition season and quickly established himself as a playmaker before a staph infection and groin tear limited his playing time and forced him to miss four games.

Morgan averaged 16.0 yards on his 20 receptions, and each of his three touchdown catches went for 30 yards or longer. He made several of San Francisco's most spectacular catches.

"I want everybody to say, 'Josh Morgan is our best receiver,"' Morgan said. "I feel I can make a difference and be a big playmaker on this team, and that keeps me hungry. The sky's the limit, and I'm not going to be satisfied until I reach my potential."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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