The legions of Ashley Lelie backers out there are likely to have mixed reactions to the following. After Sunday's loss to the Ravens, Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan approached Mike Nolan and told him that if the 49ers had played Lelie more, the Ravens were prepared to double team him. How many times did the Ravens double-team the 49ers' other receivers? Not often, which is one of the reasons the running game has struggled so much.
The good news for the Lelie Fan Club is that the 49ers intend on giving the lanky speedster more playing time when their season resumed on Oct. 21. After all, if every other team deems Lelie as big a threat as the Ravens, it will mean more running room for Frank Gore, fewer double teams for Vernon Davis and fewer corner and safety blitzes for Alex Smith. And no, I don't mean Trent Dilfer. Every day it seems as if Smith is more and more likely to take back his starting role on Oct. 21. He said he'll throw some this weekend and then go through the 49ers' non-contact practice Monday. If that goes well, he's hoping to take part in the padded practice Wednesday, which in turn, means he's almost a lock to play Sunday.
Lelie's emergence, however, isn't good news for another player. At one point, the 49ers were poised to give rookie Jason Hill his shot in a game. However, Hill injured his hamstring at that point and missed the following two games. In that interim, the team welcomed back Bryan Gilmore, signed LeRon McCoy and decided to give Lelie a bigger role.
"Had (Hill) been healthy, maybe I wouldn't have brought Gilmore back," Nolan said today.
-- Matt Barrows