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The San Francisco 49ers have two players going in opposite directions on offense: Kendall Hunter and Delanie Walker. The former is getting better, and the latter is making more and more mistakes.
Prior to Sunday's game between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets, we talked about second-year running back Kendall Hunter and his struggles through the first three weeks of the season. Hunter's core skillset lends him to outside tosses, sweeps, counters and misdirection in general. He's explosive, and can make anybody on the football field miss. But through the first three weeks of the season, he looked like a wasted pick.
Maybe that's a little harsh, but I stand by the statement. Hunter just looked off, and the primary reason for this was the fact that he was dancing around behind the line of scrimmage. Every time he got the ball in his hands, he looked around, stopped, moved one way, then jerked back the other or some combination of all of that. It was a clear step backward in his fundamentals.
But on Sunday, he looked very good with the ball in his hands. He didn't make those game-breaking plays, but his feet were moving in a clear direction every time the ball was transferred to him. He made his cuts, he knew when to juke and more than anything, he knew when he had to ditch a play and just pick up what he can. It's not often you see a player commended for picking up 2 or 3 yards, but those same plays went for a loss of yardage just last week.
All wasn't perfect on offense, though. One player in particular showed a maddening trait that's been with him for a season or two now: tight end Delanie Walker and his inability to catch passes when he's wide open. Now, he did, in fact, catch a few passes in the game, but it came after one really mind-numbing drop. He has the weird habit of being able to snag a reception when he's in double coverage, but lacks the concentration to secure the football when he's running free.
Walker went from being a dual threat tight end to just being a guy that defenses have to pay middling attention to. He's become a fantastic blocker, but the only spark he's shown of offense came in Sunday's game, and it was after the aforementioned drop. It's really unclear as to why Walker has regressed in this area, but it's going to continue hurting San Francisco and it's going to stall some drives big time.
That being said, if it's somehow a direct trade in the cosmic scale of things, getting an explosive and dynamic Hunter more comfortable with the game at the NFL level is probably the more important outcome.