May 7 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Itís pretty hard to hide any player the size of a tight end in this league, but that is one thing the 49ers will try and do this season. As Eric Johnson emerged as a very effective receiving tight end in his rookie season, it gave Jeff Garcia another option in the 49ers offense that seemed to have been missing since Brent Jones took retirement.
The 49ers will try and use Johnson as a key target in this yearís offense, but at the same time they will try and bury him in the offense. With the offensive weapons the 49ers do feature un guys like Garcia, Owens and Hearst, the 49ers should be able to get most teams to overlook the second year tight end. In so doing, Jeff Garcia should be able to hook up consistently with the big target who will likely make a habit out of embarrassing linebackers.
Johnsonís not particularly quick, but he knows how to find soft spots in coverage like any good receiving tight end should, and while defensive coordinators will focus on stopping the flamboyant Owens, and strong 49ers backfield, Johnson should become an easy target for Garcia to find and exploit defenses with.
The tight end is a key feature in the West Coast Offense, and with so many other potential ways for the 49ers to attack opponents, Johnson will often be overlooked by defenders. It is at that point that the 49ers will take Johnson out of hiding and use him to open up the rest of their offense.