Injuries take a toll on every NFL team, but the 49ers certainly are limping into the season’s final game with more health concerns than they’ve had all season.
Wide receiver Mario Manningham is now out for the remainder of the season after suffering a serious knee injury in the Sunday night loss to the Seahawks.
Tight end Vernon Davis suffered a concussion in the Seattle game, and he has not yet been cleared for this weekend’s regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals, which the 10-4-1 Niners need to win in order to clinch the NFC West title.
Defensive end Justin Smith (elbow) also is unlikely to play against Arizona, meaning the 49ers are dealing with a flurry of injuries piled upon the earlier losses this season of wide receiver Kyle Williams and running back Kendall Hunter and reserve defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs.
Certainly, it’s not an ideal position for the 49ers to be in as they head into an important matchup this weekend that will help decide their playoff scenario, while also trying to regroup from the 42-13 loss in Seattle that was the most lopsided loss by the team since Jim Harbaugh became head coach.
In his news conference Monday, Harbaugh acknowledged the injuries and the loss and repeatedly noted that his team must “reorganize, refit and regroup” in time for Sunday’s game, wrote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch.
The loss of Manningham will be another new wrinkle for the 49ers’ offense to overcome. His loss leaves the team with Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss as the team’s primary options at wideout, with rookie A.J. Jenkins and Ted Ginn Jr. as backups. Jenkins has played very little this year, and Ginn – who also has battled through injuries – has just two catches.
If Davis is unable to play against the Cardinals, Delanie Walker would also become the primary target at tight end.
As Mike Sando of ESPN noted in his NFC West blog, the loss of Manningham and Davis for Sunday’s game would leave quarterback Colin Kaepernick without two of the team’s top-targeted receivers. According to Sando, citing ESPN Stats & Information, Crabtree leads the team with 109 passes thrown in his direction (with 77 catches), followed by Davis (55 targets, 40 catches) and Manningham (56 targets, 42 catches). Then comes Moss (43 targets, 26 catches), Walker (34 and 19) and running back Frank Gore (31 and 25).
The loss of Manningham and Williams puts the 49ers in a similar position to the end of last season, when the 49ers were thin at the wideout position as they entered the playoffs. The offseason acquisitions of Manningham, Moss and Jenkins were supposed to give the team much more depth at the position.
Now, reports Branch, the 49ers likely are going to need someone to step up from the practice squad to help out against Arizona. The two options are former Eagle Chad Hall and former Seahawk Ricardo Lockette.