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Vernon Davis Shoulders Load with WRs Returning

Posted Nov 21, 2013

Approaching 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns for his career, the 49ers tight end is leading San Francisco's passing attack with wideouts Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton on their way back from injury.


Vernon Davis already has more receiving yards, 553, in 2013 than he did in all of 2012. At age 29, Davis also needs just 96 more yards to reach the 5,000 mark and two additional touchdowns to record No. 50 for his career.

So he's got to be feeling pretty good about his season so far... right?

“I would feel better about myself if we had won the last three games that we lost,” the 49ers tight end said before Thursday’s practice. “I don’t think one guy can affect the team as far as winning. We have enough depth to come in and fill that void.

“It is important that we have all our guys – Crabtree, Manningham, Boldin – because it adds value to our team. If we have all those guys on the field, the sky’s the limit.”

Entering San Francisco’s “Monday Night Football” matchup in Davis’ hometown of D.C., this is another significant storyline. Will his fellow pass-catchers take the pressure off of him?

Michael Crabtree worked out individually early in Thursday’s practice and hasn’t been ruled out to make his season debut against Washington; Mario Manningham has four catches since returning from major knee surgery in Week 10; and Anquan Boldin, like Davis, has been under the microscope of opposing defenses.

“I see some things differently that they’re trying to do, but they did some of the same things last year,” Davis said of the coverages he’s seen. “They would have a (cornerback) on top me, then a safety back, off about 12 yards, doubling me.

“Sometimes they’ll have three guys. I’ll look up be like, ‘Wow, three guys, are you serious?’ It comes with the territory.”

There’s no doubt that the return of Crabtree would coincide with a looser defensive secondary.

“We’re excited about Crabtree coming back. He’s a tremendous talent,” said Davis, whose 44 touchdowns since 2009 rank second among all NFL pass-catchers over that span, which includes the postseason. “He just adds value to our team. I know Greg Roman, (Jim) Harbaugh are excited. As a team, we can’t wait to get him back.”

Harbaugh said he expected Crabtree to practice fully this week and that his performance in those sessions will determine his readiness to play on Monday night in Washington.  

Patton said before Thursday’s practice that while he has been rehabbing and working out off to the side, the training staff hadn’t cleared him to participate in team drills. Harbaugh said he expected this to happen “very soon.”

For his part, Patton added that when he learned that he fractured his foot during the team’s Week 4 win at St. Louis, he thought he’d be placed on Injured Reserve, thus ending his season. Because the 49ers elected to keep him on their 53-man roster in the time since, the rookie wideout remains eligible to play again this season. He and his coach expect that to happen, but neither is tabbing him to as the passing game’s panacea.

“This offense doesn’t revolve around one person,” Patton said. “It revolves around everybody.”

Right now, however, you could be forgiven for thinking it revolved around Davis. He has caught eight Colin Kaepernick’s 11 touchdown passes this season – Boldin nabbed the remaining three – and is the team’s lone downfield weapon.

Without delving too deep into scheme, fullback Bruce Miller acknowledged Davis’ integral part in the offense’s weekly game plan.

“He’s important (considering) just the potential that he has on every single down to make plays. What he does to the defense that we play against, the looks that we get when he’s in the game, not in the game,” said Miller, the team’s third leading receiver with 16 catches and 176 yards. “From a coverage standpoint, the back end, you have to be aware of where he is at all times. That makes it easier on some of the other guys.”

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