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49ers' Davis still leads division's tight ends

10/25/2011

Veteran tight ends Zach Miller, Todd Heap and two early draft choices threatened to shake up the position in the NFC West.

"May the best man win," the San Francisco 49ers' Vernon Davis said during training camp. "It's competitive. That is what I like. I have to outwork those guys. I have to do better than them if I want to be at the top of the charts. I look forward to the challenge."

Teammate Delanie Walker has arguably posted the greatest challenge within the division. Walker's three scoring receptions are a career high, matching Davis through six games.

Davis is averaging about five fewer yards per reception this season compared to last. He has no receptions longer than 39 yards this season after collecting five of at least 40 yards in 2010. The team has cut down on interceptions, perhaps reflecting a more conservative attack. That could be affecting Davis' big-play opportunities. However, in looking at the 15 interceptions San Francisco threw last season, only one came on a pass intended for Davis.

Heap and veteran Jeff King have made an impact for Arizona, but Heap has battled a hamstring injury lately. Miller hasn't done much with Seattle, a reflection of offensive struggles, injuries and a concussion stemming from the illegal hit he absorbed against the New York Giants.

St. Louis Rams rookie Lance Kendricks, a second-round choice, has struggled with dropped passes after a strong preseason. He appeared to rebound with a 45-yard reception at Green Bay two weeks ago, but the Rams seemed to go with Billy Bajema and Michael Hoomanawanui as their primary tight ends against Dallas.

Rob Housuler, a third-rounder for Arizona, has been open for a couple would-be touchdowns in recent weeks, but quarterback Kevin Kolb missed him both times. Housler has six catches for 69 yards.

The chart ranks NFC West tight ends by receptions. Davis leads the class with nearly twice as many receptions as his nearest challenger.

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2011 NFC West Tight Ends: Receptions, Weeks 1-7