Ellington’s Return May Provide Spark to Special Teams

Explosive rookie expected back on the field Sunday vs. Raiders for first time since injuring ankle vs. Saints a month ago

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Rookie wide receiver Bruce Ellington hasn’t made a big impact on the 49ers offense this season. He has just five catches for 54 yards and one touchdown.

But the speedy, 5-foot-9 Ellington has been very good on special teams. He earned the No. 1 job returning punts and kickoffs earlier this season, and is averaging 25.7 yards on kickoff returns and 7 yards per punt return.

Those numbers may not be dazzling, but they’ve been solid, and Ellington’s speed has provided the 49ers with a big-play threat.

He had big games as a returner vs. the Chiefs and Rams this season.

However, that threat has been missing since early November when Ellington suffered an ankle sprain vs. the New Orleans Saints. Since that time, cornerback Perrish Cox has taken over punt-return duties and rookie running back Carlos Hyde has handled kickoffs.

Neither has been able to give the 49ers much of a spark.

In four games returning punts, Cox had just 35 yards on 10 attempts, a 3.5-yard average, and fumbled in the loss to the Seahawks last week. Hyde has been better on kickoff-return duties, with an average of 24.3 yards on 11 returns.

In Ellington’s absence, the 49ers have often started drives in horrible field position, in part because of lackluster returns.

Ellington, however, should be back on the field this Sunday when the 7-5 49ers meet the 1-11 Raiders at O.co Coliseum.

Ellington returned to practice Monday and is expected to resume return duties. That should be good news for the 49ers offense, which may be able to benefit from better field position.

“Hopefully, they’ll mix me into it,” Ellington told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group when asked about his availability as a return man and receiver.

Ellington told the media this week that his ankle isn’t 100 percent, but it’s good to go.

“It can’t get worse,” he said. “I can push through it. It feels good.”

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