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Morning Tailgate: Wright Gets Reps at Returner

Posted Nov 13, 2013

While second-year running back LaMichael James now seems cemented as the 49ers punt returner, he and cornerback Eric Wright talked about Wright's practice reps at that spot.


With the release of the 49ers unofficial depth chart on Tuesday, a few things were made clear.

Mario Manningham has reclaimed his starting wide receiver spot. Dan Skuta remains in a fight to hold onto his starting outside linebacker slot.

And San Francisco has a new punt returner.

The waiving of fourth-year wideout/returner Kyle Williams has paved the way for second-year running back LaMichael James to catch punts, the role he performed well in during the preseason and in which he made his NFL debut on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

So the question becomes: Who backs him up?

Because cornerback Perrish Cox was also waived on Tuesday, James is now the team’s only player with experience on duty. That experience only encompasses his three returns for 35 yards versus the Panthers.

The depth chart doesn’t list a No. 2 at the “PR” position, but who could it be?

“That’s a good question,” James said after Tuesday’s practice. “Seems like everybody that was doing it is not here anymore… ‘E-Wright’ has been out there with me lately, giving a helping hand. I guess it’d be ‘E-Wright.’”

At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Eric Wright is listed as one inch taller and five pounds heavier than James, and his speed has been apparent at the cornerback position in his first six NFL seasons. He was inactive in his first game as a member of the 49ers 53-man roster on Sunday.

As for his return skills?

“With us being in San Francisco, I have a legacy of being a great returner – but that’s high school,” he said, smiling.

The Bay Area native was alluding to his days as a prep at Riordan High School. His opportunities to carry the football on special teams were limited at USC, where he backed up Reggie Bush, at UNLV and with the Cleveland Browns, where he was teammates with speedster Josh Cribbs from 2007 to 2010.

“Just haven’t had the opportunity to do it,” Wright said.

If James has his way, the opportunity may not come this season either.

As for the new specialist, James rated his overall performance on Sunday “a two out of a 10.” Active on gameday for the first time in four weeks, he knows he has a long way to go.

But James also reflected on how far Williams helped him get to where he is as a returner.

“He always corrected me back there in practice, preseason,” James said. “He was one of the biggest coaches I got. He helped me tremendously. Without him, I don’t think I’d be as good.”

For more storylines surrounding the team, check out this edition of Morning Tailgate links, presented by State Farm.

Bill Williamson of ESPN.com delved into the numbers of Vernon Davis’ significance.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News checked in on the condition of Davis and Eric Reid.

49ers.com provided the nuts and bolts of Tuesday’s transactions.

 

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