This preseason, McDonald has had at least one reception in every game and hasn't dropped a pass attempt for which he was targeted. He hopes the new year will bring productivity for the 49ers offense.
“I caught a lot of heat for that last year,” McDonald said when asked about his hands. “I never lost my confidence. I always knew I was capable of catching the football."
In the third preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, he had three receptions for 29 yards including one touchdown from backup QB Blaine Gabbert. He only had eight receptions 119 yards throughout the entire 2013 regular season.
McDonald was a second-round pick of the 49ers in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Rice. The 49ers traded up six spots to select him, giving up a sixth-round pick in the process.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh had good things to say about his second-year tight end. He said McDonald has stood out for all the right reasons in training camp.
"Vance has had a tremendous offseason, [a] great camp [and is] catching the ball very well," Harbaugh said. "Big improvement, I think. Everybody has a lot of confidence in Vance. He’s a go-to guy.”
McDonald benefited in both OTAs and mini-camp throughout May and June as starting TE Vernon Davis held out in hopes of a new contract. Davis ended his holdout one week after mini-camp ended.
As a result, McDonald got several reps with the first-team offense in the offseason activities. He has six receptions for 62 yards in three exhibitions for 2014.
All three receptions ended up being on the same possession right before halftime with the second-team offense. He had a six-yard receptions on third and 2 and a 17-yard reception before the six-yard touchdown from Gabbert.
The 49ers backup QB praised McDonald, saying his work ethic is paying off.
"He’s another guy that just goes out there every day with the same mindset and that’s just to get better," Gabbert said. "We work on individual routes with those guys because there are so many opportunities for tight ends to be singled up on linebackers and really 1-on-1 situations. So, we kind of have to maximize those opportunities when you have a talented athlete on a linebacker.”