Programming note: Watch Tuesday’s 49ers press conference with head coach Jim Harbaugh on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and Streaming live online at 12 p.m. here.
Running back Frank Gore began smiling and shaking his head when considering the possibilities for the 49ers in the second half of the season.
After all, the 49ers have won five consecutive games and own a 6-2 record – one game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West standings.
And the 49ers are due to get back wide receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree. The 49ers do not currently have a reliable No. 2 wideout to complement Anquan Boldin, who leads the team with 38 catches for 551 yards.
“Can't wait,” Gore said. “I can’t wait until Crab, Mario and some of the other guys come back. We know they can make plays. To see what we did without those guys, that's real big for the team.”
The 49ers just wanted to keep things together on offense until Manningham and Crabtree became available. And, now, their returns are within sight.
Last season, Crabtree became the 49ers’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003. Crabtree led the 49ers with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season. Manningham was the second-leading wideout despite appearing in only 12 games before his season-ending knee injury. Manningham had 42 catches for 449 yards.
Through the first half of the season, Kyle Williams is the 49ers’ second-leading wide receiver with just 11 receptions for 108 yards and no touchdowns. Williams’ spot with the 49ers was secure before the 49ers’ 42-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars because he had at least been reliable in the return game. But all that changed Sunday when he committed a fumble on a kickoff and muffed punt – neither of which resulted in a turnover.
[RELATED: Is Kyle Williams' job in jeopardy?]
As many as six players currently on reserve lists are due back for the 49ers in the second half of the season. That means the 49ers should receive an influx of improvements as space must be created on the 53-man roster.
“I’d never take anything away from the men that have put together the first half of the season and the work they’ve put in, but we are getting some good football players back,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said.
Moreover, Baalke expects many of the players already on the team to make more significant contributions in the second half.
“And you look at the young guys,” he said. “The young guys have eight games under their belts. So you’re hoping and you’re expecting they’re going to get better with every game that they play. So your roster should get better as the season goes on.”
Here is a look at the six players the 49ers who could be added to the roster in the coming weeks:
WR Mario Manningham: He has been practicing two weeks ago after sustaining tears to the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments on Dec. 23 against the Seattle Seahawks. He underwent surgery about a month later after the swelling subsided. Manningham has been steadily improving in practice and last week caught a touchdown pass that prompted a celebration from his teammates. Manningham will be activated to the 53-man roster by Nov. 4. He will be available to play Nov. 10 against the Carolina Panthers.
CB Eric Wright: He has been on the non-football illness list since the 49ers signed him on Aug. 2. He was in the process of taking care of a personal issue and reported to the 49ers about three weeks later. He is a talented player who has started 81 games over the past six seasons with three different teams. He will be added to the 53-man roster for the 49ers’ next game. His role has not been determined, but he did start getting placed into the mix in practices as part of the team's regular season. He can play either side and in the slot. The 49ers consider him a candidate to become a starter in the future.
DL Tank Carradine: He will also be added to the 53-man roster for the 49ers’ next game. He has practiced for two weeks, but he has not played in a game since Nov. 23, when he sustained a torn ACL while appearing in his final game at Florida State. The 49ers think so highly of him that they invested a second-round draft pick. He could become a significant contributor in the second half of the season with starter Ray McDonald playing with a partially torn right biceps tendon.
LB Nick Moody: The rookie special-teams player was cleared to practice last week, and will be added to the 53-man roster in the coming weeks. He opened the season on the active roster but sustained a broken right hand in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. He was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return.
WR Michael Crabtree: His rehab is coming along on pace after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles on May 22. He is running near full speed, as well as performing agility work. Coach Jim Harbaugh expects Crabtree to be ready to get on the practice field in mid- to late-November. It’s possible he can play in the final four games or so of the regular season before heading into the playoffs.
OLB Aldon Smith: The 49ers expect to meet shortly with Smith, who checked into in-patient treatment for substance abuse on Sept. 23 – three days after a DUI arrest. Baalke said Smith will return to the 49ers this season if he demonstrates he has made “progress.” Harbaugh said it’s prudent for the 49ers and Smith to take things one day at a time and not adhere to any timetable.