Can JJ Step It Up?
June 11 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Some things never change around the 49ers facility, and while a reduction to JJ Stokes contract may have changed, the question of whether or not he can improve his performance this coming season, remains a constant. Over the past few seasons it became quite evident that Stokes was not worth what the 49ers were paying him; but given a reduced contract, Stokes performance may finally reflect his contract figure.
The former first round pick has been battling injuries throughout his time with the team. Once heralded ‘the next Jerry Rice’, Stokes has been simply a good receiver and thus never reaching the expectations the 49ers had of him. He’d love all that to change now that he is fully healthy and able to develop a rapport with quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Truth be told, Stokes numbers were not that terrible. He had a lower percentage of dropped passes than any other receiving threat on the 49ers last season. He’s always demonstrated great route running and his hands have come along way since his rookie season. The big receiver can always be counted on for a first down, and seems to play at a higher level in the playoffs and in the red zone. It is that level that Stokes will try and maintain throughout the game.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had some encouraging things to say about the receiver: “J.J.*s our best route-runner, plus he*s able to use his size [6-4, 217] effectively. Last year, he had seven red- zone touchdowns, and that’s as much as anybody. You can’t just look at his reception total, because in the West Coast offense, he’s not going to get the ball a lot.”
Knapp not surprisingly, is right. Stokes is a great blocker and does so much more than just catching passes for the 49ers offense. Still the 49ers want Stokes to draw some of the coverage away from Owens, and to do that, he’ll have to be more of a threat. It will be his goal to be noticed in a positive way this season - he just better stay fully healthy.