Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Cardinals, 49ers adjust as injuries hit
By Mike Sando
NFC West teams have taken a couple tough injury hits this week.
The Arizona Cardinals placed center Lyle Sendlein on injured reserve Tuesday morning. The San Francisco 49ers did the same with running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Kyle Williams later in the day.
Sendlein becomes Arizona's sixth offensive player to land on injured reserve. So far, the team has had 12 offensive players miss a combined 69 games to injury. Those numbers are from the Cardinals. Rich Ohrnberger is the likely replacement for Sendlein. The team also re-signed Scott Wedige off the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad. Wedige had gone to the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent.
The 49ers have greater options for replacing Hunter and Williams. Rookie second-round choice LaMichael James has been inactive every week to this point. He's available, as is veteran Brandon Jacobs. Fullback Anthony Dixon played halfback previously. Starter Frank Gore could also get additional carries, of course.
The options for replacing Williams at receiver are a little more nuanced. Rookie first-round pick A.J. Jenkins, like every 2012 49ers draft choice, has yet to play an offensive or defensive snap this season. Williams' injury could clear the way for Jenkins to finally get on the field. However, the 49ers generally use no more than three wide receivers at a time. Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss stand ahead of Jenkins.
Williams divided his time between the perimeter and slot this season. He got more pass targets from the slot than anywhere else when the 49ers went to three-receiver personnel. Crabtree has gotten more snaps than any receiver on the team. He has gotten more targets from the slot than Williams has gotten, even in three-receiver personnel.
In the future, Crabtree and Manningham could get more work from the slot, with Moss on the outside in three-receiver personnel groupings. The team could work Jenkins into the rotation on occasion, testing to see how well he projects in various spots.
Also Tuesday, the 49ers announced a five-year contract extension for inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. More on that in a bit.