So, whatever happened to Quinton Patton?
The 49ers’ rookie wide receiver, a fourth-round pick from Louisiana Tech, missed the first two preseason games this summer, but then exploded in the final two, showing good hands, breakaway ability and a knack for getting open.
Now, after the 49ers have lost two straight games and the offense has looked anything but dynamic, it’s obvious quarterback Colin Kaepernick is looking downfield for another receiver besides Anquan Boldin to get open.
As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle has noted, among wide receivers Boldin has 19 catches in three games, Kyle Williams has nine, Marlon Moore has one and Patton and Jon Baldwin – acquired in a trade from Kansas City in August – have none.
The team went into training camp looking for a No. 2 wideout to pair with Boldin, and it appeared San Francisco had found a variety of options with Williams, Moore, Patton and Baldwin. But with San Francisco struggling at 1-2 and the once-dynamic offense now stuck in neutral in back-to-back losses to the Seahawks and Colts, youngsters Patton and Baldwin have been inactive or ignored.
Now, with the 49ers getting ready for Thursday night’s game in St. Louis against the 1-2 Rams, head coach Jim Harbaugh is saying other wideouts might get their opportunity. Specifically, he mentioned Baldwin, who’s been on the inactive list for all three games this season.
“That’s possible,” Harbaugh told reporters, of Baldwin. “He’s doing a good job. He had a real good week of practice last week.”
Baldwin is a big, physical receiver at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, and he showed flashes of brilliance with the Chiefs in two seasons – while also showing a knack for dropping the ball. In two years in Kansas City, he had 41 catches for 579 yards and two scores.
The Niners need a Baldwin or Patton to emerge to take the defensive focus off Boldin and give Kaepernick some other targets. In the loss Sunday to the Colts, with tight end Vernon Davis also missing because of a hamstring problem, Kaepernick’s passing game was shut down to less than 100 yards until a fourth-quarter drive padded his stat line.
Often over the past two games, the 49ers have given their quarterback time to throw, but he’s had nobody open.
So where’s Patton?
During preseason, he looked like the best receiver the 49ers had among all those not named Boldin. In two exhibitions, he had six ctaches for 87 yards and two TDs. He’s played – and even had a reception wiped out by a penalty – but his snaps have been limited. It seems odd that he hasn't been given more snaps to see if he can provide a spark to the offense, considering Williams and Moore don’t seem to be getting open.
Obviously, the 49ers are still looking for that No. 2 wide receiver. Maybe it will be Baldwin. Maybe it will be Patton. But it better be somebody – and soon – or the 49ers’ passing game may struggle for a long while, with secondaries smothering Boldin and daring Kaepernick to throw to receivers who have yet to step up.