NFL Nation: Ricardo Lockette


In a recent conversation with a source about the now-closed investigation in Miami involving San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the source said if the investigation turned up nothing, the subject's reputation should remain intact.

That’s where we are regarding Kaepernick. He deserves to have his reputation remain strong.

On Thursday, the Florida State Attorney’s office announced it will not pursue charges in a complaint made by a 25-year-old woman that she might have been sexually assaulted in early April. Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seattle Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette were named as subjects in a "suspicious incident."

However, state attorney’s office spokesman Ed Griffith said Thursday there was no evidence of a sexual assault. Griffith made it clear that it wasn't a case; it was simply an investigation. It was frustrating for many involved that the investigation took more than two months to unfold. But that’s the process, and what we know as a result of the process is clear -- there was no wrongdoing.

Kaepernick should, in turn, get back his good reputation.

The 49ers backed Kaepernick during the investigation. They moved forward as if they knew their quarterback did nothing wrong. They made the biggest leap of faith possible last week when they gave Kaepernick an extension through the 2020 season even though the investigation was ongoing.

In April, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh spoke of the team’s faith and the importance of Kaepernick's reputation with some strong comments.

"At some point, there needs to be a resolution to this scenario," Harbaugh said. "The only victim in Colin's case is Colin's reputation. … Looking at Colin Kaepernick's situation, at some point, there needs to be a resolution to some of this jump-the-gun, witch-hunt scenario we're seeing. I've seen one side reported. I've heard the other side and feel very good there'll be a good resolution, and hopefully a just one, too. I hate to see his reputation be the victim."

Since entering the NFL three years ago, Kaepernick has had nothing but a sterling reputation. While he is not always effusive with his time in news conference settings, he can be charming and is always quick with a laugh or smile when he is around his teammates, coaches and team support staff. He is known for his work ethic around the 49ers facility.

Kaepernick is hosting a golf tournament in his hometown next week to benefit children with heart disease. He is what the 49ers want their quarterback to be. He deserves this incident to be remembered for what it was: baseless and without evidence.
The player poaching between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks has been a well-documented part of the most heated current rivalry in the NFL.

But if the 49ers land Seattle free-agent cornerback Walter Thurmond it would change the landscape. Thurmond is set to visit with the 49ers. If the 49ers sign Thurmond, he’d be -- by far -- the best player either has landed from the other during this recent rivalry.

In the past both teams have signed the others' former players, claimed them off waivers or signed them off the practice squad. Among the names that have made the San Francisco-Seattle shuffle in recent years:

Perrish Cox, B.J. Daniels, Ricardo Lockette, Cameron Morrah, Chris Harper, Charly Martin, Ryan Seymour and Seneca Wallace.

Few of these players have made a big impact. Thurmond would be different.

The Seahawks are strong at cornerback, so they likely can handle losing Thurmond. But seeing the 49ers improve with the addition of one of their players would not go over well in Seattle.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Pro Bowl right tackle Russell Okung can return to practice Friday.

Okung is on injured reserve and isn't eligible to play until the Nov. 17 home game against Minnesota, but his recovery from a torn ligament in a big toe is going well.

Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 30, is also getting closer to returning and might be back in two weeks.

Carroll also said receiver Percy Harvin did not practice and his return remains day to day. The Seahawks have two more weeks to activate Harvin off the physically unable to perform list, but his return this weekend appears unlikely since the Seahawks activated receiver Ricardo Lockette off the practice squad Wednesday.

Running back Marshawn Lynch, guard J.R. Sweezy and defensive end Michael Bennett did not practice Wednesday, but it was a short workout because of the game Monday night. Lynch was listed on the injury report as having a knee injury, and Sweezy was listed with an elbow injury. Bennett missed practice because of an illness. All three players finished the game Monday at St. Louis.

Fullback Derrick Coleman and safety Jeron Johnson, who are both suffering from hamstring injuries, did not practice Wednesday. Neither played at St. Louis.
RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks activated wide receiver Ricardo Lockette from the practice squad Wednesday to replace the injured Sidney Rice, which probably is a good indication that Percy Harvin will not return Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Harvin did not practice Wednesday and remains day-to-day as to when he might be activated off the physically unable to perform list.

“He’s with the rehab guys,” Carroll said of Harvin. “We’ll see how that goes, then see what [Thursday] brings. With the workload he’s endured to get back in shape, there’s going to be some stuff and he’s been a little bit sore.”

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin and Sidney Rice
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe Seahawks had hoped that after Sidney Rice (foreground) got hurt, Percy Harvin would be ready to return. But it appears they'll have to wait a bit.
Harvin had hip surgery on Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum. He returned to practice last week on a limited basis.

“We want to make sure we don’t go too far too fast,” Carroll said. “We’re looking for the long haul in his recovery. We want to make sure we manage our way through that. We’re being very careful. He didn’t do a whole lot last week. He did very little. It seems like it’s best to keep him in that mode a little longer.”

So for now, Harvin’s return remains on hold and the Seahawks will have to make it work without him and without Rice, who suffered a torn ACL Monday night.

“It affects us,” Carroll said of Rice’s loss. “We trust the heck out of him and he’s a terrific football player. He really knows the system and he helps the people around him play well. I was sick for him. It was a very unusual situation. It was a violent play and he didn’t think he was hurt that badly. Nobody did until we took the MRI.

“It’s very unfortunate, but we need Jermaine [Kearse] to step up and we moved up Lockette. We’ll count on all our guys to take up the slack.”

Kearse is a second-year player and a local guy from Tacoma; he’s popular with fans because of his college years at the University of Washington. He has played well this season in limited action, with two touchdowns on only eight receptions.

“It’s unfortunate to lose Sidney,” Kearse said. “He’s a good teammate and a really good friend of mine. But I see this as a really good opportunity to showcase my talents and showcase what I can do out there. It’s up to me to make the most of it.”

Kearse gets to play against his friend and former UW teammate this weekend, Buccaneers starting middle linebacker Mason Foster. "He sent me a text and said he’s proud of what’s I’m doing," Kearse said. "But if he gets the chance to hit me, he’s going to hit me. I said, 'Vice versa.'"

Kearse said Mason isn’t looking to cover him one-on-one.

“Oh, he doesn’t want that,” Kearse said smiling. “But Mason’s cool. That’s my guy. We hung out a lot in college, and the competition this weekend will be a lot of fun.”

Kearse also has returned kickoffs this season (only eight returns because so many kicks these days are out of the end zone), but he admitted that the lack of playing time has been tough.

“For me, the hardest thing has been to stay mentally focused with the limited reps I would get,” Kearse said. “So getting more playing time will help me a lot. I’ll be able to get into a rhythm of the game. I just want to help the team win any way I can.”

Lockette has been back with the Seahawks for a week after being waived by Chicago. He spent last season with San Francisco, but was originally signed by the Seahawks in 2011 as an undrafted free agent.

“He got caught up in a numbers game with us before,” Carroll said of Lockette. “But he’s always been a high-potential guy. He has great speed and fantastic hands. His experience with the other two clubs seems to have broadened his awareness.”

Lockette said he feels comfortable with the offense, even though he has only been back a few days.

“I was actually surprised at how much of the playbook I retained,” Lockette said. “With Sid out, it’s not something one person can replace. It’s going to take all of us. I learned a lot when I was in San Francisco and Chicago. But I think everything happens for a reason and there’s a reason I’m here."

Bears waive Maneri; Palmer visits

October, 21, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears have released tight end Steve Maneri to make room on the 53-man roster for veteran quarterback Jordan Palmer, who is en route to Chicago to take a physical, Bears general manager Phil Emery told reporters at Halas Hall on Monday.

If Palmer passes the physical, as expected, he will sign a contract to serve as the Bears’ No. 2 quarterback behind Josh McCown for as long as starting quarterback Jay Cutler is sidelined with a groin tear -- the team announced Cutler will be out a minimum of four weeks and will then be evaluated week-to-week. Palmer impressed the Bears during his stint with the club in the preseason but failed to make the final cut as the organization decided to carry just two quarterbacks on the active roster.

Palmer completed 11 of 17 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown in the Bears’ preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns.

Maneri signed a two-year contract with the Bears in March after starting eight games for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012. Maneri began the year on the club’s active game-day roster but had been inactive the past three weeks.

Maneri’s departure leaves the Bears with only two tight ends currently on the roster -- Martellus Bennett and Dante Rosario. However, the Bears could choose to elevate 6-foot-6 tight end Fendi Onobun from the practice squad if the team is concerned about depth at the position. That would require a corresponding roster move.

The Bears also terminated the practice squad contract of wide receiver Ricardo Lockette on Monday, according to Emery.

Three things revisited: Broncos-49ers

August, 9, 2013

Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' 2013 exhibition opener, a 10-6 defeat to the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park:

1. Young receivers. The 49ers would like 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins to seize the starting job opposite Anquan Boldin. But Jenkins did not make a strong positive statement in this game. "Uh, could have been better," said coach Jim Harbaugh afterward. Overall, the 49ers targeted Jenkins three times and got two turnovers on those plays: Jenkins lost a fumble following his lone reception, and Colt McCoy overthrew him on a deep route, resulting in an interception. Marlon Moore adjusted to the ball nicely and made a low grab on an across-the-body throw from starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Broncos tackled Moore short of the first down, but this was still an impressive reception. Ricardo Lockette drew a penalty on the perimeter. He also contributed with a special-teams tackle deep in Denver territory. Rookie second-round choice Vance McDonald is a tight end, but he factored in the receiving game and certainly looked the part while catching four passes for 66 yards.

2. Secondary dynamics. Tramaine Brock, in the lead for the No. 3 corner role over Nnamdi Asomugha while the team prepares to welcome newly-signed Eric Wright, had tight coverage on an incomplete sideline pass from Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas. Asomugha made a sure tackle in zone coverage to stop the Broncos on third down. At safety, C.J. Spillman made a tackle for loss. First-round pick Eric Reid delivered a couple of forceful hits. It will be helpful to get an update from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as the 49ers look to identify their third corner and starting free safety for Week 1.

3. Backup QBs. Grading backup quarterbacks behind backup offensive lines can be tricky. McCoy looked good infinding McDonald in stride for a 19-yard gain early, but he attempted only seven passes overall and was picked off once. McCoy apparently suffered a shoulder stinger, Harbaugh told reporters after the game. Scott Tolzien completed 15 of 26 passes for 158 yards and a pick. His quick strike to Austin Collie on a late fourth-down play sustained a drive. To be continued.

Three things: Broncos-49ers

August, 8, 2013
Three things to watch for Thursday night in the San Francisco 49ers' 2013 exhibition opener against the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park (9 p.m. ET):

1. Young receivers. A.J. Jenkins will be looking to shake Denver's defensive backs and perceptions of him as a disappointing 2012 first-round draft choice. Jenkins generally enjoyed a constructive offseason until a hamstring injury caused him to miss practice time this summer. Jenkins returned to practice this week and quickly made an impact with his speed. He should get an extended look against the Broncos and a few chances to catch passes from multiple quarterbacks. Quinton Patton, Ricardo Lockette and Marlon Moore are also among the young receivers with something to gain.

2. Secondary dynamics. Tramaine Brock appears to have the inside track against Nnamdi Asomugha in the race to become the 49ers' third cornerback. Their competition will be one to watch. In the bigger picture, it's telling that a three-time Pro bowl choice such as Asomugha is struggling to beat out an undrafted fourth-year player from Belhaven with no more than 86 defensive snaps in a season. We'll also want to keep an eye out for rookie Eric Reid and the other players challenging for the starting job at free safety. Reid has been looking forward to making his NFL debut against Peyton Manning, but veteran Craig Dahl appears more likely to start at free safety in this game.

3. Backup QBs. Colt McCoy heads into the exhibition season as the 49ers' likely No. 2 quarterback behind starter Colin Kaepernick, who will not play much in this game. Scott Tolzien and B.J. Daniels are also competing for that No. 2 job. A rough outing from McCoy or a particularly strong outing from one of the others could shake up the competition.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

One key positional battle for each NFC West team as training camps get underway.

Arizona Cardinals: Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams are fighting for the starting job at halfback. Both have had injury problems recently. Mendenhall is the more proven option. He also played under new Cardinals coach Bruce Arians when they were with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2008 through 2011. Mendenhall averaged 1,103 yards and 9.7 touchdowns per season in that span, by far the most productive stint of his career. As Arians put it back in March, "Rashard is a proven back who can carry a team to a Super Bowl. We’ve got a good history together and know how to use him. But he is a heckuva player in all phases. He never has to come out of the game. The depth that it puts in our backfield is really exciting."

St. Louis Rams: Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy are the leading candidates to start at halfback now that Steven Jackson has moved on. The team probably will take a committee approach to the position. Richardson outplayed Pead when both were rookies last season. Pead, a second-round choice, was playing catch-up as a rookie after rules prevented him from practicing with the Rams until June 7. Pead faces another challenge this season after the NFL suspended him for the first game of the season, citing a violation of the substance abuse policy. The Rams expect big things from Pead, but this is looking as if it could be a pass-oriented offense without a workhorse running back. Stacy comes closer than the others to fitting the power profile. He has a chance to emerge as a primary runner on early downs.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers do not yet know which receiver will start opposite Anquan Boldin while Michael Crabtree recovers from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Crabtree is expected to miss most or all of the 2013 season. Kyle Williams worked opposite Boldin in the first camp practice. A.J. Jenkins caught zero passes as a 2012 first-round pick, but he could be a leading candidate, as well. The team is also hoping to develop rookie fourth-round pick Quinton Patton and somewhat enigmatic Ricardo Lockette, who has been living with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Lockette earned high, unsolicited praise from coach Jim Harbaugh earlier in the offseason. The 27-year-old is 6-foot-2 and weighs 217 pounds, giving him prototypical size. He also ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.4 seconds at the combine. Lockette played in two games with Seattle in the 2011 season, catching two passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in the final two games of that season. He hasn't played in a regular-season game since. Don't forget about Mario Manningham. He's not yet healthy, but the 49ers have him for the season.

Seattle Seahawks: It's not yet clear how the Seahawks will divide playing time at wide receiver. Percy Harvin is obviously going to be an every-down player if his recently disclosed hip injury isn't serious. Golden Tate and Sidney Rice also will play extensively, but one of them could see his snaps diminish in base situations. Doug Baldwin probably also will command playing time. Harvin's injury situation is a pivotal variable. Coach Pete Carroll said he's not particularly worried because so much time remains before the regular season. Although some thought Tate's playing time would suffer when the team acquired Harvin, the Seahawks thought the move would create even better matchups for Tate, who caught 45 passes for 668 yards and seven touchdowns last season. This is a contract year for Tate. Something or someone would have to give -- Rice, most likely -- if Tate earned a significant contract extension for Seattle. This is a highly competitive situation.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What are the three key camp issues facing each NFC West team?


Offense: Top running backs
Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams have combined for one ruptured patella tendon (Williams), one torn ACL (Mendenhall) and one shoulder surgery (Williams) during the past two seasons. Williams has played five games in two seasons. Mendenhall missed 10 games last season (one to suspension) after returning from his knee injury. So while new quarterback Carson Palmer rightly commands much of the attention heading into camp, the running backs deserve our attention as well.

Defense: Coaching change
The coaching change from Ken Whisenhunt to Bruce Arians cost the Cardinals their defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, just as the defense was gaining momentum. Arizona ranked third behind Chicago and Denver in defensive EPA last season. New coordinator Todd Bowles comes to Arizona after a difficult 2012 season with Philadelphia. Can the Cardinals sustain their recent defensive success under new leadership?

Wild card: Kitchens' health
Quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens underwent emergency heart surgery in early June after experiencing chest pain during practice. Last we heard, Kitchens was recuperating and expected to return sometime during camp, perhaps on a limited basis at first. Kitchens' health is a leading issue for the Cardinals even though the team has enough depth on its coaching staff to cover for him.


Offense: Second-year second-rounders
Two second-round picks from 2012 will help determine the Rams' trajectory on offense. Receiver Brian Quick and running back Isaiah Pead each started one game as a rookie. Quick played 174 snaps and caught 11 passes, two for touchdowns. Pead played 39 snaps and had 10 carries. It's time for both to become meaningful contributors. They should have increased opportunities after St. Louis parted with veterans at their positions.

Defense: Rookie safety T.J. McDonald
The Rams will want to get McDonald up to speed quickly. They did sign veteran Matt Giordano for insurance, but McDonald, a third-round choice from USC, is the player they envision in the lineup. Coach Jeff Fisher has experience putting rookie safeties into the lineup right away. Tank Williams started all 16 games as a rookie under Fisher with Tennessee in 2002. Michael Griffin started 10 games as a rookie under Fisher with the Titans in 2007. Williams was a second-round choice. Griffin was a first-rounder.

Wild card: O-line health
The Rams are young just about everywhere except along their offensive line. That's OK as long as those veterans avoid some of the injury troubles they've suffered in recent seasons. Left tackle Jake Long has had two arm surgeries the past two seasons. Right guard Harvey Dahl is coming off a torn biceps. Center Scott Wells has had two surgeries on his right knee, plus a broken foot, in the past year and a half. Tackle Rodger Saffold has had a torn pectoral and a neck injury since late in the 2011 season. The group should be healthy going into camp. Will the good health last?


Offense: Developing wideouts
Eight wide receivers have played in games for the 49ers during two seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. The list -- Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Kyle Williams, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr., Josh Morgan, Braylon Edwards and Brett Swain -- includes zero players the team drafted and developed under Harbaugh. The team will be looking to develop young wideouts A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette while Crabtree and Manningham recover from serious injuries. Jenkins and Patton were draft choices under Harbaugh. Lockette was signed last season.

Defense: Roles on the D-line
General manager Trent Baalke has suggested the team could stand to expand its rotation on the defensive line. How will that play out once the 49ers are on the field and the coaching staff takes over? What role will newcomer Glenn Dorsey play to that end? Starters Justin Smith and Ray McDonald could benefit from a little more rest now and then. They rank among the NFL leaders in total regular-season and postseason snaps played in the past couple of seasons. Smith, in particular, is hugely important to the defense's success.

Wild card: Eric Mangini
The coaching staff will have a different feel with Mangini as the new senior offensive consultant. Harbaugh has kept together his staff for two seasons, an upset for a team that has enjoyed so much success on the scoreboard and in scheming. We easily could have credited Harbaugh for staying the course in the name of continuity. Adding a coach with Mangini's profile shakes things up. It'll be interesting to see how Mangini assimilates.


Offense: James Carpenter
Carpenter's health is a key variable for the future of the offensive line. Coach Pete Carroll has indicated Carpenter should be available for the start of training camp after missing nine games last season and seven as a rookie. Drafted to play right tackle, Carpenter's future is at guard if he can get healthy, stay healthy and regain quickness. Having Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and Pro Bowl center Max Unger flanking a healthy Carpenter would give Seattle a line more like the one Carroll envisioned.

Defense: Cliff Avril's transition
Seattle will be looking to see how pass-rushing defensive ends Avril and Bruce Irvin fit at linebacker as the coaching staff promotes versatility through the front seven. Avril is particularly important in the short term because Irvin faces a four-game suspension to open the season while starting defensive end Chris Clemons continues to rehab from the torn ACL he suffered during the wild-card round last season. Carroll has hinted that Clemons could return in time for the season, but that's a best-case scenario.

Wild card: Keep it clean
All NFL players must submit to testing for performance-enhancing drugs when they report for training camp. That's significant for the Seahawks after Irvin became the fifth Seattle player since 2011 to incur a PED-related suspension. What are the chances another player tests positive?

The San Francisco 49ers' workout with free-agent receiver Austin Collie comes as the team moves forward without injured starter Michael Crabtree.

Collie, 27, has his own concerns. Knee surgery forced him to miss the 2012 season. He also has a history of concussions.

The chart shows Collie and Crabtree producing at about the same level over the same number of games across the 2009 through 2011 seasons. Collie was with Indianapolis and catching passes from Peyton Manning during those years. Crabtree was playing within a 49ers passing game that struggled through much of that window.

Crabtree finished the 2012 season with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. Collie would not replace Crabtree, obviously. But as the 49ers consider the options while evaluating less proven wideouts on their roster such as A.J. Jenkins and Ricardo Lockette, they have a better idea what Collie could offer.

The 49ers' meeting with Collie came shortly after the team learned another wide receiver, the recently signed Brandon Carswell, had suffered a torn ACL.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A first-year player who has turned heads in OTAs/minicamps:

Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Cooper, LG. Cooper moved into the starting lineup right away. The team moved incumbent left guard Daryn Colledge to the right side. Arizona also released incumbent starting right guard Adam Snyder. Guards generally don't stand out until players put on the pads. Cooper has stood out for his athletic ability. The Cardinals thought they were getting the most athletic guard in the draft, and Cooper has looked the part to this point.

St. Louis Rams: Tavon Austin, WR. These practice sessions without pads are set up for wide receivers with great speed. Austin is that type of receiver. The differences in speed between NFL players can be imperceptible within a position, but those watching the Rams practice could see the difference between Austin and the typical wideout. All the usual disclaimers about running around in shorts apply, of course, but the Rams drafted Austin largely for his speed. They haven't been disappointed so far.

San Francisco 49ers: Ricardo Lockette, WR. Lockette made his NFL debut in 2011, but he still qualifies as a first-year player under the league's classification system. The receiver position is in focus anyway because Michael Crabtree's injury opened the door for others to seize playing time. Injuries have prevented veteran wideout Mario Manningham from practicing altogether. Another wideout, Kyle Williams, has been cleared only for individual drills. Enter Lockette. He has been living with and working out with quarterback Colin Kaepernick off the field and developing chemistry with him on it.

Seattle Seahawks: Luke Willson, TE. The fifth-round choice from Rice caught just about everything thrown his way when OTAs got going. He has had some ups and downs since then, but the Seahawks are high on him. Veteran backup tight end Anthony McCoy landed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon, giving Willson every opportunity to work his way into the No. 2 role behind Zach Miller. Seattle could become more of a three-receiver team with Percy Harvin joining a group featuring Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and impressive (so far) rookie Chris Harper. There will still be room for formations with two tight ends. It's looking as though Willson will play.
Michael Crabtree, Colin KaepernickHarry How/Getty ImagesWhile losing Michael Crabtree will surely hurt the 49ers, it will be Colin Kaepernick's play that will determine San Francisco's success.
The San Francisco 49ers, though unusually healthy in recent seasons, had a hard time recovering from injuries to return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. and top defensive lineman Justin Smith over the past two seasons.

Bill Barnwell drives home that point in his latest piece for Grantland, one calling into question how the 49ers will recover from Michael Crabtree's injury.

The piece also touched upon a subject we've discussed in some detail around here: Crabtree's improved production with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.

"Crabtree and Kaepernick, they have that swagger," Jerry Rice observed during Super Bowl week. "It's how they go out, how they play, the energy on the football field. If they are making plays, Crabtree is always talking noise at the defender or something like that.

"You can see the swagger; you can see the confidence."

Thanks to the chart, you can see Crabtree's production spiking when Kaepernick, not Alex Smith, was the one targeting him. Kaepernick attempted 298 passes last season, counting playoffs. Smith attempted 218 passes, all during the regular season (Kaepernick also had 218 regular-season attempts). The increased production for Crabtree was about more than additional opportunities. It was about Kaepernick and Crabtree maximizing them.

Crabtree's injury hurts, no question, but quarterbacks are far more important to overall team success. That is what the information in the chart is telling us.

Kaepernick, not Crabtree, remains the key for San Francisco. He was the key to unleashing Crabtree. He will be the key to maximizing other weapons as well.

As Barnwell notes, Anquan Boldin's playoff production for the Baltimore Ravens wasn't representative of his production with the team previously. We might naturally assume that Boldin, now with San Francisco, won't produce those kinds of numbers with the 49ers. We might logically expect a regression.

However, the change in Boldin's production during the postseason reflects dramatically improved play from quarterback Joe Flacco, who had been ordinary until the postseason. Flacco posted a 46.8 Total QBR score during the 2012 regular season. That was below the 50-point average for NFL quarterbacks. His regular-season QBR since 2010 was only 55.4, barely above average. The figure rocketed to 83.6 during the most recent postseason, indicating Flacco suddenly began playing at an MVP level.

Kaepernick's QBR score was at 76.8 during the regular season and 86.5 during the playoffs.

So, unless Kaepernick suddenly turns into what Flacco had been previously -- an average starting quarterback -- the 49ers should be able to get more from Boldin than the Ravens got from him during most of his tenure with the team.

Maintaining the pace Boldin set during the playoffs could be unrealistic, but an improvement from his regular-season stats sounds reasonable.

We should also expect the relationship between Kaepernick and tight end Vernon Davis to grow, especially without second tight end Delanie Walker siphoning off receptions periodically. Davis' rapport with Smith was well established. There's no reason Kaepernick and Davis can't build something similar, particularly now that they know their relationship is more important than ever.

Davis had three 100-yard receiving games last season. Two came during the playoffs, both with Kaepernick at quarterback. Kaepernick was the 49ers' quarterback for three of the four games in which Davis had at least 75 yards receiving.

Elsewhere in the division last season, we saw Russell Wilson get the most from Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, who had previously been underwhelming for Seattle. We saw Larry Fitzgerald's production slip with third-string quarterbacks in the Arizona Cardinals' lineup.

Every organization dreads serious injuries. Sometimes, the personnel people working for the really good ones get excited when an injury opens the way for unproven players to get an opportunity.

The 49ers will find out this season what 2012 first-round receiver A.J. Jenkins can offer them right now. They'll get a look this offseason at Ricardo Lockette, a player coach Jim Harbaugh thinks has a future in the league. Rookie fourth-rounder Quinton Patton might get a shot, too.

On the bright side, Crabtree could return from his torn Achilles' tendon late in the season.

The 49ers could consider veteran help in the interim. I would not expect them to panic. Re-signing Randy Moss wouldn't make a great deal of sense in the bigger picture, for example. He's old, declining and doesn't fill the role Crabtree filled on the team. Some of the 49ers' thinking could depend upon where Mario Manningham stands in his recovery from knee surgery.

Crabtree was important. The 49ers' other receiving targets are important. The margin for error has diminished for San Francisco. But we shouldn't lose sight of what matters most. Kaepernick is the key. Quarterbacks almost always are.
The season-altering and potentially season-ending injury Michael Crabtree suffered Tuesday leaves the San Francisco 49ers with question marks at wide receiver.

Anquan Boldin becomes the most productive healthy receiver available to the team. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are coming off injury-shortened seasons.

Marlon Moore, signed from the Miami Dolphins, is the only other wideout on the roster with a reception to his credit last season.

Boldin (65 receptions), Manningham (42), Williams (14) and Moore (six) combined for 127 receptions last season. The chart compares their regular-season totals to the ones Crabtree produced.

Having Manningham and Williams healthy would change the dynamic. Second-year receiver A.J. Jenkins' development also becomes more important. He wasn't needed much last season and failed to catch a pass in three appearances. Coach Jim Harbaugh has expressed high hopes for Ricardo Lockette, who must prove his prodigious physical gifts can translate to consistent in-game performance.

Rookie fourth-round choice Quinton Patton is another option. Chad Hall and Joe Hastings are the other receivers on the 49ers' roster.

Crabtree has already undergone surgery for a torn Achilles' tendon suffered in practice Tuesday, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

The 49ers have a couple roster-related options for Crabtree.

They could place him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list when training camp opens, then leave him there while Crabtree rehabilitates. Crabtree would have to miss at least the first six games, which seems like a given anyway. From there, Crabtree could return to game action as late as Week 15 under recently tweaked PUP rules.

Teams have until following their sixth through 11th games to activate players to their 53-man rosters from their PUP lists, or else the players are lost for the season. Once activated, the player can practice for as many as three weeks before returning to game action. That route would seem to have appeal for the 49ers if they thought Crabtree could recover in time for a playoff push.

The 49ers could also place Crabtree on injured reserve, ending his season. Teams can designate IR players for returning later in the season if those players suffered major injuries after the start of training camp. In those cases, the players become eligible to practice after six weeks and play after eight.
Brock Huard, Danny O'Neil and I got together over the phone Tuesday to discuss 2013 draft needs for the Seattle Seahawks on 710ESPN Seattle.

The conversation got me thinking about real and perceived needs for NFC West teams.

Most of the perceived needs are also real ones, but sometimes we focus disproportionately on a few areas while overlooking others.

A quick look at one position to reemphasize for NFC West teams:

Arizona Cardinals: With a disproportionate focus on the offensive line and heavy focus on potential additions to the pass rush, we should note that the Cardinals parted with both veteran starting strong safeties this offseason. They could proceed with Rashad Johnson and Yeremiah Bell as the starters. However, Johnson remains unproven as a full-time starter. Bell is 35 years old, so he projects as a short-term solution. Jonathan Amaya, Justin Bethel and Curtis Taylor are the backup safeties.

St. Louis Rams: So many mock drafts project wide receiver and safety to the Rams in the first round. The offensive line is another position where the Rams could help themselves early in the draft. Yes, they added Jake Long in free agency. But with no established starter at left guard and more questions at tackle than we might initially realize from afar, the line could use reinforcements. Shelley Smith, Harvey Dahl, Rok Watkins, Chris Williams and Brandon Washington are the guards. Long and projected right tackle Rodger Saffold have missed games to injury recently. Saffold is entering the final year of his deal. Joe Barksdale is the third tackle right now, it appears.

San Francisco 49ers: Safety, defensive line and tight end are three positions heavily emphasized already. Looking ahead, the team has only two cornerbacks and three wide receivers under contract for 2014. Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver are the corners. Michael Crabtree, A.J. Jenkins and Ricardo Lockette are the receivers. These could be positions for the 49ers to emphasize earlier than anticipated, depending upon how the draft falls at positions of greater perceived need.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive tackle, outside linebacker and tight end are three areas I've thought about quite a bit. The offensive line should be set for years to come after Seattle used early picks for Russell Okung, Max Unger, James Carpenter and John Moffitt in recent seasons. However, the long-range picture at guard remains unsettled. Seattle could also use a backup tackle with the ability to push Breno Giacomini for the job on the right side in the future. Here's a supporting note from ESPN Stats & Information: "Including postseason, Seahawks quarterbacks were sacked or put under duress on 29.7 percent of their total drop-backs last season and 26.8 percent of their drop-backs against four or fewer pass-rushers, both worst in the NFL."

Eight in the Box: WR status check

March, 29, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?

Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd comprise a solid top three. LaRon Byrd and Kerry Taylor are the only other receivers on the roster. First-year coach Bruce Arians has said receiver is one position he doesn't worry about. Floyd's continued development after an encouraging finish to the 2012 season will be important. The former coaching staff envisioned moving Roberts to the slot, with Fitzgerald and Floyd on the perimeter. That could still happen. Arians also plans to move Fitzgerald around the formation the way he moved Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis last season. Drafting a receiver for depth would make sense, but there's no need to chase one early. The Cardinals released veteran Early Doucet, who struggled with drops last season.

St. Louis Rams: Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Austin Pettis are the top three. Nick Johnson and Raymond Radway are the only other receivers on the roster. The Rams are eager to develop young players. Givens had five receptions of at least 50 yards during his 2012 rookie season, matching the combined total for wide receivers from every other team in the division. Pettis made a difference around the end zone. The Rams still must add to the position after letting Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson leave in free agency. Having two first-round picks should give the Rams an opportunity to consider a highly rated prospect at the position. It's clear the team is committed to youth regardless. We should remember, too, that recently added tight end Jared Cook lines up at receiver quite a bit. He made all but six of his 42 receptions from the slot last season.

San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are clearly the top two receivers. Mario Manningham is coming off ACL surgery, took a pay reduction recently and might not figure prominently this season. The 49ers, like the Rams, could use more contributions from a receiver drafted early in 2012. A.J. Jenkins, chosen 30th overall and three spots before the Rams selected Quick, did not catch a pass during his rookie season. What's ahead for him? The 49ers aren't saying much. No one is quite sure. Coach Jim Harbaugh recently sounded more excited about former practice-squad wideout Ricardo Lockette, whose size-speed combination sets him apart from most prospects. Lockette flashed ability with Seattle previously, but his career never took off with the Seahawks. Kyle Williams, Chad Hall, Joe Hastings and Marlon Moore are the other receivers on the roster.

Seattle Seahawks: The addition of Percy Harvin changed the outlook for the position quite a bit. He and Sidney Rice appear to be the top two receivers, but Golden Tate is gaining momentum heading into his contract year. Rice and Tate each caught seven touchdown passes last season. Both averaged 15-plus yards per reception. Doug Baldwin needs improved health to factor as a slot receiver. Even then, opportunities could be scarce. The team thinks Phil Bates and former Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams have the potential to become contributors. Bryan Walters, Charly Martin and Jermaine Kearse are the other receivers on the roster. Drafting for the position would help for long-term planning given Tate's contract situation. Also, injuries have limited Harvin, Rice and Baldwin at times in recent seasons. Rice did stay healthy last season, however.