What’s better than having Vernon Davis on your team? Having Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
The 49ers are spoiled when it comes to talented tight ends, featuring one of the best duos in the league. Davis and Walker have grown tight as teammates in their six years together on the 49ers and have become a headache for opposing defenses.
While Davis’ prowess in run-blocking and the passing game is well-noted throughout the league, Walker has quietly become one of the most valuable players on the 49ers. Used in various roles on offense – on the line, split out wide or in the backfield – and also on special teams, Walker has gained the trust and confidence of his head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Walker has also proved to be a versatile weapon for offensive coordinator Greg Roman, handling the assortment of responsibilities as a true pro. Entering his second year in Roman’s offense, Walker will be able to add even more to his plate this season.
“We will continue to push the envelope with what we’re doing, how we’re using him,” Roman said. “He’s a guy that gets it, he understands football. He’s got a good feel for the game. So, that tandem of tight ends, you can do a lot of different things with them. Delanie worked real hard last year to understand his role, and many roles really on the offense. He’s starting off at a much higher spot this year.”
The offense isn’t the only benefactor of the speedy tight end group, as linebackers and safeties get a stiff test in pass coverage every practice. Patrick Willis has formed something of a practice rivalry with Davis in recent seasons, helping the All-Pro linebacker become a more well-rounded player.
“A lot of people talk about his coverage,” Davis said of Willis. “But to me, I think he’s one of the best coverage guys, as far as a linebacker, that I’ve ever seen. He’s getting better and better. Why? Because he works hard.
“He works on it each and every day and he’s always challenging guys on our team, whether it’s myself or Delanie Walker. … If he can compete against the tight end unit here, he can compete against anybody.”
Davis totaled 77 catches for 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns throughout the regular season and playoffs in 2011, while providing the highlight of the year with his game-winning catch against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round.
Though Walker’s stats aren’t as gaudy (19 catches, 198 yards and three touchdowns), his impact on the game goes beyond the numbers. Walker also showed a knack for producing in the clutch, as evidenced by his game-winning, fourth-down catch in the closing seconds of the Week 6 matchup in Detroit.
“When I look at him, I don’t look at him as a tight end,” Davis said. “I look at him as a playmaker.”
Tags: Delanie Walker, Vernon Davis
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