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Next Man Up

Posted Sep 21, 2011



Braylon Edwards will not play this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jim Harbaugh announced on Wednesday.

“He’s going to be out for a little bit,” the 49ers head coach said.

The 6-foot-3, 214-pound free agent addition to the 49ers receiving corps underwent a “little” procedure on his right knee, according to Harbaugh.

But that doesn’t mean the 49ers will lack perimeter play-makers this week. Harbaugh also said Michael Crabtree could suit up on Sunday, a week after being inactive for the team’s 27-24 overtime loss to Dallas.

Edwards had one reception against the Cowboys, a 21-yard pass from Alex Smith, but the gifted wideout hobbled off the field after the catch. Edwards walked into the locker room under his own power, but did not return to the game.

In Edwards’ absence, second-year wide receiver Kyle Williams logged more playing time and caught his first NFL touchdown, an impressive 12-yard grab over a Dallas defender who had tight coverage on the play.

If it’s Crabtree or Williams who takes on a greater role in this week’s game plan, the 49ers will need production from the next man up. On Sunday, the 49ers (1-1) face the NFL’s eighth-best pass defense in the Cincinnati Bengals (1-1), a unit allowing an average of 194.5 passing yards in two games.

“Guys are going to have to step up and be ready to go,” said Smith, who has been impressed with the 49ers depth at receiver.

“You have to deal with injuries,” the 49ers quarterback added. “Yeah it hurt to lose (Braylon) after three plays, but I thought Kyle did a great job, as well as Ted (Ginn Jr.) and Joshua (Morgan) all kind of moving around and making it work.”

Smith was clearly not looking for sympathy. The 49ers passing game, which ranks 26th (128.0 yards per game), doesn’t have to go for video game-like numbers to make Smith feel content.

He, like coach Harbaugh, only cares about winning.

“It’s great to seal 300-yard passing games and this and that,” Smith said. “But, it’s not always the way it’s going to be, and I’m happy to do whatever it takes to get the win. In the end, that’s how quarterbacks truly get evaluated.”

Crabtree, who has one catch and four receiving yards this season, is hopeful he can attack the Bengals defense along with Smith and his fellow wideouts, Williams, Ginn and Morgan.

“It’s day-by-day,” Crabtree said of his injured feet. “I’m taking it one day at a time. … “I’m just trying to get it right, right now.”

In addition to wide receivers having to step up on Sunday, the 49ers could very well rely on their pass-catching tight ends.

Vernon Davis, the team’s leading receiver of the past two seasons (he leads the team again this year with seven catches for 65 yards) is hopeful he can help in the passing game if needed.

“I strongly believe that Coach Harbaugh and the rest of the staff will do everything that they can to put us in a great situation to make plays – everybody,” Davis said. “Whether it’s blocking or catching passes or whatever. I put it in their hands. They’ve got it.”

If Davis is frequently sent out in passing routes, he would likely be defended at times by a former teammate, Cincinnati linebacker Manny Lawson, who signed with the AFC North squad this summer via free agency.

“I’ve been going against Manny since I was in college, so I know him very well,” Davis added. “It makes my assignment a little easier because I know those guys. I don’t have to go in and really watch them like I have to watch the other guys because I know them.”

Smith was quick to point out the difference in the 4-3 scheme that Lawson is playing in currently. That might change the familiarity somewhat.

“I think the biggest thing is knowing them as players,” Smith said, referring to Lawson and another former teammate, cornerback Nate Clements. “Besides that, they are playing in a different scheme, being put in different situations. So, you know their skill-sets and things they’re good at as players. But, other than that I don’t think it’s really making a difference.”