The 49ers have had their share of problems at the Wide Receiver position this season. First Michael Crabtree hurt his foot in player organized workouts and was once again held out of training camp missing yet another pre season. The team signed free agent WR Braylon Edwards in response and the duo of Crabtree/Edwards was seen as a possible dynamic duo the team has not had in over a decade.
The problem has been getting the 2 on the field together as it has happened only once this season due to injuries. While Crabtree finally seems healthy, Edwards will not return until after the bye week on October 30th to face one of his former teams the Cleveland Browns. Up until this point in the year a familiar face in Joshua (don’t call me Josh anymore) Morgan has once again been the most productive all 49er WRs. Morgan has sustained his value over the last several years now not only in the passing game but as a valuable blocker downfield.
The team took a huge blow late in their 48-3 dismantling of Tampa Bay on Sunday. On 4th and 2 leading 41-3 Head Coach Jim Harbaugh decided to go for it deep inside Bucs territory with rookie Quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the game. Kaepernick connected on a bullet to Morgan who turned it up field looking for the end zone when he was stopped around the 2 yard line. It was a scary scene for the 49ers as Morgan was clutching his ankle and had to be carted off the field.
Today we learned that Morgan will have surgery today on his fractured right leg just above the ankle. The team will have to debate with Doctor’s after the surgery whether or not to put Morgan on Injured Reserve, ending his season. Team officials will also have to decide whether or not to bring on another WR. Next week vs Detroit as it stands the team will only have 3 healthy WRs in Michael Crabtree/Ted Ginn Jr and Kyle Williams who has played sparingly thus far in his 2nd year.
The team now will almost certainly have to go out and get a WR to fill in at least until Edwards returns to the lineup. You cannot carry only 3 healthy WRs into an NFL game, especially since one Ginn is your primary kick and punt return man. Three veteran receivers went through training camp with the 49ers: Lance Long, Dominique Zeigler and Kevin Jurovich. All three are still available on the market. The team also has two receivers on the practice squad, rookie Joe Hastings and veteran John Matthews. Matthews was signed last week. But he played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego and is familiar with the offense. Hastings is not ready for NFL action yet so he probably won’t be considered and I just don’t see Matthews getting the call even if he did play for Harbaugh before. You can also scratch former Rams WR Donnie Avery off the list, the 49ers brought him in for a workout about a month ago but he signed with the Titans recently. If it were my call I’d go with Zeigler who has been with the team for many years and has a good relationship with Alex Smith. Lance Long would be my second choice as Smith called him the MVP of “Camp Alex” and had a strong training camp by all accounts just couldn’t fit into the final roster.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed Morgan’s surgery and extended time out and also that the 49ers will add a WR to the roster soon.
“Looking at it right now, somebody’s got to come up to the 46, which means somebody’s got to come up to the 53,” Harbaugh said. “Best case is that we add somebody (from outside the organization) or bring somebody up from the practice squad. That’s a job for us in the next 24, 48 hours.”
“Josh is going to be out for an extended time — longer than we anticipate and longer than we hoped, longer than we can afford to have him out,” Harbaugh said.
“I feel sick for him and for our team.”
This is an unfortunate situation for the 49ers and one that many will view as one the team should have avoided. What was the team doing going for it on 4th down up by 38 points with 4 minutes left anyway? Why was a starting WR, the teams’ leading receiver at that doing on the field with most starters including QB Alex Smith out of the game long ago?
I contend however the 49ers are doing everything they can to catch up after a shortened off season and HC Jim Harbaugh is utilizing every opportunity to grow as a team. Backup QB Colin Kaepernick may not get another chance like he got on Sunday for an extended look with the team comfortably in control of the game. Harbaugh wanted to see what his rookie QB could do, the team is short on WRs and needed a starter in the game as it went with a 3 wideout set. It’s easy to put the blame of this injury on Harbaugh but you have to remember that on every play there is a chance of injury in the NFL and this is not coach’s fault.
Coach Harbaugh had this to say:
“You’ve got to play. You can’t take a knee with four minutes left in the game. It could have been a run. Josh was competing. I think he’s going to be okay. Kaepernick is competing. He’s got to get to work. We’re not taking a knee with four minutes left in the game.”
This also comes as a huge blow to Morgan himself who is having a strong season in a contract year. A major injury could cost Morgan millions of dollars on the open market next off season, especially if he is sidelined the rest of the season.
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