By Jerrell Richardson
Not only are the 49ers coming off their most balanced offensive showing last week, but its official; Mario Manningham is back. The six-year veteran’s return will bolster a steadily improving offense, finally giving quarterback Colin Kaepernick a familiar face to throw to. It’s the defense though that is getting players whose availability could not have come at a better time. San Francisco has lost their first and second option at nose tackle, but will be just fine, and by week 10, should be one piece (Michael Crabtree) away from a dangerous team on both sides of the ball.
As good as the 49er linebackers are, the secondary is not far behind. Yet they will be even better once cornerback Eric Wright is in game shape. Wright is a physical corner not afraid to stick his nose in the run game and excellent in coverage. Since entering the league in 2007 he has had at least one interception every year, and in his last full season accumulated 74 tackles, four interceptions, forced a fumble and defended 16 passes. The 49er secondary is playing so well that he will have to earn his way into a starting role, which even for a player like Wright is easier said than done.
The two starting corners are Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, but they have plenty of competition behind them. Nnamdi Asomugha is a former Pro Bowler and has had his moments this year, Tramaine Brock earned defensive player of the week honors for his play in Week 5 against the Texans, and Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver have played respectably. Throw Eric Wright into this mix and San Francisco has arguably the best group of corners in the NFL, and certainly the deepest
The addition of Mario Manningham will finally give the 49ers a receiver to play across from Anquan Boldin. While Manningham is no Michael Crabtree, his presence alone will change the way teams must now defend the 49ers passing attack. As it stands now, Boldin is the only real target. With the speedier Manningham on the field, teams will have to decide if they want to risk Manningham beating them vertically, or Boldin underneath. Chances are defenders will take Boldin away and force Manningham and the other receivers to make plays, but Manningham is more than capable of torching man coverage.
Manningham played 12 games last year and caught 42 passes for 449 yards. While these stats don’t wow you, he is solid and consistent, which is exactly what a young quarterback needs. There will be a time this year, barring any more injuries, that Kaepernick will have Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham and Vernon Davis on the field at the same time; a scary thought for defenders.
While injuries are unfortunate, they are a part of the game. For Quinton Dial injuries have handed him a golden opportunity. After recovering from his early season bout with turf toe, the 49ers fifth round pick is going to get a chance to play, which is all the former Alabama standout could ask for. Dial is a big boy, and at six foot five inches and 318 pounds, he at least has the body type to clog the middle of the field. It also has to be noted that he is coming from the best college football program in recent memory, and after winning two national championships, is as prepared as any player can be in his shoes. The problem though, is Dial has not been able to participate in the hours of on-field practice that is needed to get him up to speed. Dial at this point should only be used to spell others, as he is not ready to be the full-time answer at nose tackle, yet.
Cornellius “Tank” Carradine
While he won’t be playing the actual position, it’s Conrellius Carradine that gives San Francisco their best option to fill the void at nose tackle. The 49ers drafted the former Florida State star in the second round to be the heir apparent to Justin Smith. However, Carradine has been held off the field due to a right knee injury that required ACL repair. Carradine was a stud in college totaling 11 sacks in 11 games in his final year at Florida State, and figures to make plays when on the field. What Tank’s addition will do is allow them to move Justin Smith to nose tackle, and put the speedier Carradine on the end. Smith would only need to play nose tackle for two games max, and at this point in his career could even be more effective in the middle. Whatever they decide to do, Carradine is a player who will make an impact on the field, and should even provide an upgrade to the pass rush if moved to defensive end.
No Need to Rush Back
While all players are now practicing, it doesn’t mean that they are going to be ready to play anytime soon. Dorsey’s injury could force Tank or Dial into action a little earlier than the team would want, but overall the 49ers are not in a position where they must have any of them on the field. They are facing two run-heavy teams before their bye in two weeks, but have a solid run support group currently in place. The 49ers will come back from their bye on November 10, and that is the realistic goal to have all four contributing on game day.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.