Carlos Rogers has spent the last year and a half trying to keep pace with water bug-quick slot receivers and there's another one -- maybe? probably? -- coming into town on Sunday.
Danny Amendola hasn't played since suffering a collarbone injury Oct. 4, and his return this weekend would be a critical boost to the Rams offense. He was back at practice on a limited basis this week and likely will be listed as questionable on St. Louis' injury report. ***UPDATE Amendola indeed is listed as questionable. Rams beatwriter Jim Thomas writes that both he and tackle Rodger Saffold are expected to play Sunday.***
The three games Amendola has missed all have been Rams losses. That's probably not a coincidence. He still leads the team in catches (32), receiving yards (395) and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns (two) despite accumulating no stats in the last three games.
"In a series, if they have to drive 14 (plays), they're going to throw him the ball at least seven times on the drive," Rogers said. "He's their main target. They have a lot of deep threats, fast guys, but any time he's on the field, any time he's moving, we think they're trying to give him the ball."
Rogers drew a comparison between Amendola and the Giants' Victor Cruz, who has given Rogers and the 49ers defense fits in recent years. Said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio of the comparison: "I think Carlos is just kind of referring to, this guy's a damn good slot. And I think that's what he meant generally. And this guy is. He's one of the top slots in the league."
Fangio said good slot receivers have to be quick and tough. They also have to be smart because the position has so many options on any given play. If the receiver is on the same page as the quarterback, he'll become a reliable target, and that's certainly the case with Amendola and quarterback Sam Bradford.
The 49ers didn't face either player last year. Amendola missed most of the season with a dislocated elbow. Bradford also was injured for the two meetings. The 49ers played against A.J. Feeley in a 26-0 Week 13 win. Kellen Clemens and Tom Brandstater were the St. Louis quarterbacks in the season finale, a 37-24 win for the 49ers.
For Fangio and a handful of players like Rogers, safety Donte Whitner and linebacker Aldon Smith, Sunday's game will be the first time they've played against Bradford as members of the 49ers. Bradford and Amendola connected 15 times for 104 yards and one touchdown in the two games against the 49ers in 2010. The teams split the series that year.
"I think he's got pretty good command of their offense for it being his first year in it," Fangio said of Bradford. "He's got deceiving speed. When he does decide to pull it down and run, he can run. I just think he's a pretty polished quarterback. Although he's been hurt and been through a couple systems there, I think he's doing well for where he's at in his development."
-- Matt Barrows