This Tuesday appeared to be a good news, bad news kind of day for the 49ers. As if they needed any more drama to be brought up heading into a very important game against their division rival St. Louis Rams. Now they are to weigh not only the quarterback situation, but also they have to make adjustments in other vital areas due to injury.
It has been confirmed this morning that back up running back Kendall Hunter has suffered a torn Achilles tendon and will be sidelined for the rest of the season. This injury is obviously the biggest area of concern for the 49ers moving forward. Hunter and the 49ers starting running back Frank Gore arguably made up the best rushing combination in the league. They are the duo that has propelled the 49ers to having the most rushing yards in the entire league up to this point. Hunter himself has 371 rushing yards and two touchdowns on only 72 attempts. His absence will be difficult to overcome heading into the playoffs. Unless of course the two guys in line to make up for his carries rise to the challenge. Both the bruising Brandon Jacobs and the 49ers 2012 second round draft pick LaMichael James will be competing for the opportunity to carry the load left by Hunter. To date, they have one carry between the two of them in the 2012 regular season.
Also confirmed this morning was the status of wide receiver and kick off returner Kyle Williams. The 49ers have made it official; Williams will be put on the injured reserve list for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Although Williams hasn’t had that big of an impact in the offensive scheme, 15 receptions for 212 yards on the season, his loss will be substantially felt in the kick return department. Williams turned out to be one of the better kick returners in the league, on only 13 returns this year he has 353 yards. That’s an average of over 27 yards per return. The 49ers can obviously make up the wide receiving duties left by Williams with more looks toward Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. Even the 49ers first round draft pick A. J. Jenkins will probably get an opportunity to contribute this year now. But what’s troubling is the kick return duties, as of now the 49ers do not have another kick returner with a high level of expertise. Their current punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. is shaky at best in his returner duties. He already has three fumbles in the return game this year. And had not Williams been injured in the Saints game, Ginn Jr. might have been shown his walking papers after yet another fumble.
The day did end on a good note though, the 49ers worked out a contract extension with super star linebacker NaVorro Bowman. An extension said to be for five years, to the tune of 45.25 million dollars, with 25.5 million guaranteed. In just his third year in the league, Bowman has become one of the best linebackers in the business. He ranks sixth in the league in tackles with 100 total, 67 of which were solo tackles. He also has two sacks and one interception on the year, making him a shoe in for a Pro Bowl selection. With the Bowman signing, the 49er have shored up their linebacker core for years to come. As they have Bowman’s linebacker counterparts, and suggested Pro Bowlers, Patrick Willis signed through 2016, Ahmad Brooks signed through 2017, and Aldon Smith signed through 2015. That is a foursome that no team in the league wanted to see stay together.
Along with the good news and bad news that the 49ers got this Tuesday, they also relayed that there was no news on the status of the quarterback situation yet. From a fan standpoint, the debacle is ultimately confusing, and coach Jim Harbaugh is giving no clear indication as to who will be the starter. He seems to be as torn as everyone else in 49ers nation is, as indicated by his noncommittal quote.
"Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. He has not done anything to lose that job. In fact, he’s playing at a very high level. Also, Colin Kaepernick, you can’t categorize him as a back up quarterback, because he’s started games and played very well in those games."
So where the 49ers stand on their starting quarterback, back up running back, and kick returner is anyone’s guess. These issues will need to be addressed if the 49ers want to make a statement against the Rams, a team that the 49ers tied only a few short weeks ago. At least they have a defense though, one that can hopefully make up for any shortcomings they have in other areas.
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