Running back Frank Gore began smiling and shaking his head when considering the possibilities for the 49ers in the second half of the season. After all, the 49ers have won five consecutive games and own a 6-2 record – one game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West standings. What grade do the 49ers deserve at the halfway point of their season coming off their fifth straight win?
And the 49ers are due to get back wide receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree. The 49ers do not currently have a reliable No. 2 wideout to complement Anquan Boldin, who leads the team with 38 catches for 551 yards. The 49ers just wanted to keep things together on offense until Manningham and Crabtree became available. And, now, their returns are within sight.
Last season, Crabtree became the 49ers’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003. Crabtree led the 49ers with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season. Manningham was the second-leading wideout despite appearing in only 12 games before his season-ending knee injury. Manningham had 42 catches for 449 yards.
Through the first half of the season, Kyle Williams is the 49ers’ second-leading wide receiver with just 11 receptions for 108 yards and no touchdowns. Williams’ spot with the 49ers was secure before the 49ers’ 42-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars because he had at least been reliable in the return game. But all that changed Sunday when he committed a fumble on a kickoff and muffed punt – neither of which resulted in a turnover.
As many as six players currently on reserve lists are due back for the 49ers in the second half of the season. That means the 49ers should receive an influx of improvements as space must be created on the 53-man roster.
“I’d never take anything away from the men that have put together the first half of the season and the work they’ve put in, but we are getting some good football players back,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said.
Moreover, Baalke expects many of the players already on the team to make more significant contributions in the second half.
“And you look at the young guys,” he said. “The young guys have eight games under their belts. So you’re hoping and you’re expecting they’re going to get better with every game that they play. So your roster should get better as the season goes on.”
- Matt Maiocco, CSN Bay Area