Vernon Davis: 49ers' game planning behind 2014 woes

Vernon Davis is coming off the worst season of his career, turning in one of the most disappointing performances of any 2013 Pro Bowl selection.

After scoring twice in the season-opening victory at Dallas, Davis never found the end zone nor topped 40 yards in a game the rest of the way.

We noted that Davis wasn't the same aggressive player after returning from a late September back injury. The tight end attributes his precipitous dropoff in production, however, to former offensive coordinator Greg Roman's play-calling and scheming.

"Whenever I'd run, like, my deep over routes there was a safety sitting over there already," Davis said last week, per the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows. "It was just game planning. And nothing really ever opened up. But I wasn't really ever a factor in the offense last year. ... The first game, yeah. But the second game, the tight ends (weren't) really involved as a whole."

Whereas the speedy Davis was San Francisco's deep threat down the seam earlier in Roman's play-calling tenure, those routes disappeared in 2014.

Davis' per-catch average plummeted from 16.3 in 2013 to 9.4 last season.

Because they are involved in more collisions, tight ends decline at a faster rate than wide receivers. Only the truly extraordinary talents are still making an impact into their mid-thirties.

Perhaps Davis is embarking on the twilight years of his career at age 31. Even if that's the case, Davis' production should bounce back to some extent this season. He's recommitted this offseason after skipping OTAs last May and June.

"Vernon is stretching the field," coach Jim Tomsula said last week. "Vernon looks extremely fast. Catching the ball really well."

New offensive coordinator Geep Chryst is emphasizing fewer multiple wide receiver sets, which means the tight ends will be more prominently featured in 2015, per Barrows.

That adjustment is welcome news for Davis in a contract year.

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