This 2 week bye period is going along swimmingly for the San Francisco 49ers. Not only are they riding a 5 game win streak into an NFC match up against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. As well as almost being back at full strength with the return of a number of players from various injuries or ailments. Just in the nick of time to strengthen up that depth chart right around playoff time.
49ers LB Aldon Smith has missed the last 5 games on an indefinite leave of absence, while checking himself into a treatment facility. The leave came after the Sept 20th arrest when Smith was detained for suspicion of DUI and possession of marijuana. Ever since the loss of Smith to the line up, the defense has not been the same. Injuries to Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey and even Patrick Willis have hindered the squad from being their usually steady selves. NaVorro Bowman has continued to elevate his game and stepped into that leadership role with half of his fellow linebackers out of commission. With Smith easing back into the groove of things it is still yet to be seen if he will see the field this weekend at Candlestick Park. Long term this whole experience can help the 49ers young LB to possibly keep his nose clean and stay away from those negative situations that have plagued his past.
Probably the most meaningful of returns comes in the form of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Both men have missed an extended amount of time away from the field and will need to make the strides to return before playing an actual game. Easy to say that QB Colin Kaepernick has been patiently waiting to see these two back in action. All season the wide receiver position has been a problem. Other than Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, the team has not gotten much from Kyle Williams or anybody else for that matter since week 1. Crabtree (achilles) and Manningham (knee) give the 49ers what they have not seen since Kaepernick took over at the helm. It gives them multiple targets instead of just 1 or 2 players that are blanketed by waiting defenders. Having this type of options outside should open up that running game like never before. Read option or straight give and go. The 49ers offense is about to be at full force so opposing teams must prepare to have the book thrown at them.
49ers have waived WR Marlon Moore, LB Nate Stupar and CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Thus clearing the way for LB Nick Moody, CB Eric Wright and of course Manningham to be activated. More moves are to come since there are only 53 spots to be filled and another handful of players that will be activated sooner or later.
Who do you see becoming the biggest contributor to the offense in the next 8 games?
Will the return of Aldon instantly fix the Niners pass rushing woes?