SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers signed Torrey Smith this offseason to make plays deep down-field and another wideout, Jerome Simpson, also has flashed a big-play ability this spring.
But don't forget about the guy who, with one notable exception, has been the team's most reliable down-field threat in recent seasons.
"Vernon is stretching the field," Jim Tomsula said Tuesday said of tight end Vernon Davis. "Vernon looks extremely fast. Catching the ball really well. Again, the next three days, I’d rather you watch it then me talk a lot about it because you’ll have the opportunity to see it.”
Davis, of course, looks better than he did last year because he wasn't around at this point in 2014. Seeking a better contract, he missed all of the spring sessions, including the 49ers' mandatory minicamp. He went on to have the worst season of his career, going from 13 touchdown catches in 2013 to just two in 2014. Both of them came in a Week 1 win in Dallas.
Davis, 31, is heading into the final year of his contract.
The 49ers want to throw the deep ball more than they have in recent years. Smith, the team's most prominent free-agent acquisition, caught 213 passes, scored 30 touchdowns and averaged 16.9 yards a reception in four years with Baltimore. Last year that average dropped to 15.7 yards a catch, but he also scored 11 touchdowns.
The thought is that his presence will create more room to run for 49ers tailbacks and give fellow wideout Anquan Boldin more space in the middle of the field. In theory it also could pull a safety from Davis, whose per-catch average fell from 16.3 yards in 2013 to a career-low 9.3 yards in 2014.
Of course, the 49ers' ability to play longball will largely hinge on the guy delivering it. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he spent a lot of time working on deep passes during his winter sessions in Phoenix and feels he's more accurate than he's ever been.
"It's something that we've (the 49ers) worked on more, too," he said. "We added the weapons to go down down the field. That's something we've got more reps at, we've gotten more comfortable with. Hopefully, that carries over."