The San Francisco 49ers have been hit by the injury bug as hard as any team in the NFL in 2013. The latest blow came in the team’s Week 5 victory over the Houston Texans when defensive lineman Ray McDonald sustained a biceps injury on a sack of Matt Schaub. McDonald’s MRI showed that he did not do any significant damage to his arm but it’s another player to add to the long list of the walking wounded.
After all of the bad news on the injury front that seems to be common place these days in San Francisco, the team finally received some signs that their fortunes may be changing for the better.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said that he expects rookie defensive linemen Cornellius “Tank” Carradine and Quinton Dial to begin practicing next week as they work their way back from injuries they sustained in college. The rookies had been on the PUP list which means they were required to sit out at least the first six weeks. Both Carradine and Dial could provide some much needed depth on the defensive front as the 49ers are thin behind starters Justin Smith, Glenn Dorsey, and McDonald.
Harbaugh also said that wide receiver Mario Manningham and cornerback Eric Wright have the “possibility” to start practicing next week. While the 49ers look to be in good shape in the secondary, they desperately need help at receiver.
Manningham, if healthy, could provide a third option in the passing game behind Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. The 49ers have had very little success when throwing the ball to their wide receivers other than Boldin. Kyle Williams, Jonathan Baldwin, Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton has combined for 13 catches and 112 yards through five games. None of them have scored a touchdown and quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a rating of 24.7 when throwing their way.
Looking deeper, the Niner’s receivers beyond Boldin have been so poor that fullback Bruce Miller has as many receptions as Kyle Williams (nine) and five more than the other three combined. Miller came into the season with 23 career catches and is hardly considered to be a primary target. Manningham, even at 75 percent, should be able to eclipse that production.
The 49ers are also hoping that the final piece of their receiving puzzle will not be too far behind Manningham. Michael Crabtree continues to rehab his injured Achilles and looks to be on pace for a return sometime in November.
“He seems to be on track for that,” Harbaugh said.
A November return would put Crabtree on pace to be back in uniform somewhere around mid-season. The 49ers host the Carolina Panthers on November 10th and then makes trips to New Orleans and Washington the following two weeks. The offense is going to have to be able to move the ball through the air to keep up with some of the leagues higher scoring teams, and Crabtree was the 49ers’ best receiver in 2012.
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