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Morning Tailgate: Vance McDonald Still Catching on

Posted Jan 28, 2014

The 49ers rookie tight end made strides as a blocker in a run-heavy offense.


Vance McDonald started his rookie season in the NFL as more of a college wideout trying to learn how to block.

McDonald finished it as a blocking tight end trying to get more looks as a pass-catcher.

Go figure.

If you boil down the 49ers second-round draftee's debut campaign, this is what you get: Eight receptions for 119 yards and a whole lot of run-blocking.

Was the Rice product surprised by this division in labor?

"No," McDonald said. "I definitely kind of got the vibe of what we wanted to establish as an offense. We wanted to be a definite run team. We wanted to establish the line of scrimmage. And we had the players to do it and the offensive line to do it. We had the running backs to do it. I knew that was a big focus, so I definitely wasn’t surprised."

McDonald even filled in at fullback during the team's divisional playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers on Jan. 12.

"He's getting a lot better without question," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said earlier this month. "The things, the nuances, all the little tricks of the trade, he’s starting to get a little bit more comfortable with. He’s developing nicely into the player that we really felt he would be. He’s been a very valuable asset for us this year.”

There's unrealized potential as a pass-catcher, however.

McDonald will enter his second pro season in 2014 seeking a couple of significant firsts: a multi-reception game and a touchdown.

For now, he expressed some satisfaction at how far he came in less than a calendar year.

"It’s a completely different game," McDonald said. "You really just had to make sure your shoulders are over your toes and you’re balanced, technique-wise, going up against guys, doing film study.

"I can't put a finger on everything (I learned). It’s game experience, week to week, and you get more comfortable in the offense."

For more storylines surrounding the team, check out this edition of Morning Tailgate links, presented by State Farm.

Eric Branch of SFGate.com quoted safety Earl Thomas’ comments on Colin Kaepernick.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wrote about the 49ers youth movement on the defensive front.

Bill Williamson of ESPN.com wondered what San Francisco should do at the center position.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com listed the 49ers connections in the Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl.

49ers.com reviewed a season’s worth of locker room speeches.

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