Patton Eager to Help Struggling Offense

Quinton Patton (Getty Images)

The 49ers' passing game has been one of the league's least productive with no thanks to a receiving corps that has made the fewest receptions in the NFL. While Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree continue to work there way back in the fold, rookie Quinton Patton also figures heavily in the team's plans.

Despite the strong season from veteran Anquan Boldin, no team has gotten less production from its wide receivers than the San Francisco 49ers.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, San Francisco's receivers have made a league-low 68 receptions. Boldin has accounted for 47, an astounding 69 percent, while Kyle Williams remains second on the team with 12 and has since found a new home with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Vernon Davis, the team's only other viable passing threat of 2013 has 34 receptions. Eight of Colin Kaepernick's 11 touchdown passes have gone to Davis - the other three have all gone to Boldin. Bruce Miller, fullback, is third on the team with 16 catches.

"It's a variety of things," Kaepernick said Thursday when asked about the team's struggles. "Whether it's how the defense is playing us or we're just not hitting things. There's a lot of things that can go into that."

In a talent-driven league, the 49ers have lost a number of talented wideouts in the early going. And while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham have gotten the most notoriety for being absent, rookie Quinton Patton has fallen under the radar.

After breaking his foot in Week 4's 35-11 victory in St. Louis, Patton remained on the 53-man roster and did not go on injured reserve, as he originally thought he would.

Exactly eight weeks later, Patton said he's getting closer to resume practicing with his team. He's been out of a protective boot for almost three weeks and has taken the field with his teammates on the practice field. But he has been limited to rehabilitation exercises instead of team drills.

It's been a frustrating go for Patton since getting drafted in the fourth round last spring. He suffered a broken finger in the team's offseason program after catching a pass from backup QB Colt McCoy. During training camp, he wasn't allowed to catch passes and was relegated to running routes.

For now, Patton is in a similar mode.

"I learned the offense in and out and everything. Just critiquing my game and getting a lot of mental reps like I did before with my broken finger, when I couldn't catch the ball and everything," he said.

His finger healed up toward the end of camp and he was allowed to play in the team's last two preseason games. His big splash came in the team's final preseason tilt when he took a bubble screen 43 yards for a touchdown in the preseason finale in San Diego. He also had four receptions for 35 yards and a score against the Vikings.

The 23-year-old made has one catch as a pro in the regular season before fracturing his foot against the Rams. He ran an in-cut and felt the pain immediately.

"Put too much weight on it I guess," said Patton.

"I think very soon he'll be back to practice," head coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday.

Of the four pass catchers Kaepernick connected with in February's Super Bowl, he's had only one holdover this season: Davis. Randy Moss (retired), Crabtree (Achilles) and Delanie Walker (left via free agency) have all be unavailable following Kaepernick's emergent 2012 season.

"It's something you have to deal with," Kaepernick said. "You it work with whatever personnel is on the field, whether it's five wide receivers or three tight ends and two backs. You make it work."

Both Crabtree and Patton's status remains in the air going forward. But as the 49ers' continue to field the league's least effective passing attack - averaging just 168 yards per game - they will continue to tread water until the reinforcements arrive.

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