|Moss and Smith have become quick friends. (Getty Images)|
We're just a few months removed from the San Francisco 49ers seriously considering Peyton Manning as the replacement for former first-overall pick Alex Smith, who had his best NFL season in 2012 when he helped lead the team to a 13-3 record, the division title, and the NFC Championship game. Manning ended up in Denver and Smith, after briefly flirting with the Dolphins, re-upped to stay in the Bay Area.
And while the 49ers offense was as efficient last season as it had been in some time, there's plenty of room for improvement, starting with the passing game. That means giving Smith more responsibility and with it, better receivers. In March, the team signed wideout Mario Manningham (formerly of the Giants) and Randy Moss (formerly of his couch), and a month later, drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round.
Smith, who's playing in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe this week, was asked about the offseason additions. He didn't hide his excitement.
"He's been a blast on the field and off the field," Smith told NFL.com's Ian Rapoport regarding Moss. "Great guy, great teammate, catches everything, makes you look good as a quarterback, so it's been great."
That was the hope when the team signed Moss so … so far, so good on that front.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh recently told Sirius XM radio host and former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon that Moss was the best receiver on the team. And more than that, it sounds like Moss is serving as a role model for the younger players.
"Randy is trying to be a leader. He's trying to set a good example for these young players," Gannon said according to the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows. "You know, I think it gets back to what the expectations are. Jim Harbaugh -- not a ton of rules, but (he has) expectations for a pro like Randy: 'I'm here to help you. We can get you back to playing like you did a couple years ago. You can be a huge addition for our offense. You can help us in the vertical passing game. But here's what you have to do.' .... So far Randy Moss has bought in."
Again, all great news for a team in desperate need of a big-play threat. But here's out concern, and one we've mentioned previously: Moss is known for his deep speed and never cared much for patrolling the middle. Which means that he's most dangerous when he can stretch the field and the physical limitations of the secondary. What happens if the 49ers' offensive line, which had trouble protecting Smith at times last year, can't sustain blocks long enough to allow for Moss to consistently get open 20, 30, 40 yards down the field? Does he run that route as hard in the fourth quarter as he does in the first? History says no but perhaps he's changed.
Running back Brandon Jacobs told Jim Rome last week that Moss looks like a different player.
"His motivation level is high," he said. "I think Moss has a chip on his shoulder. I've spoken to him a lot, and he starts off everything with, 'Just wait.' He's got a chip on his shoulder, he's ready to go out there and show everybody that he can play still."
We'll find out soon enough.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.