Monday, January 16, 2012

NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers' Delanie Walker Adds New Element If Healthy

What was lost in the mayhem that was the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints epic divisional playoff game on Saturday was the fact the 49ers won without one of their most reliable and timely offensive weapons.

Within all the match-ups that will be discussed this week concerning the 49ers vs. New York Giants NFC Championship showdown at Candlestick Park, a few big ones come to mind. The Giants' suddenly hot rushing attack against the NFL's best rushing defense the 49ers' boast is one of the biggest. Also, Eli Manning against the suddenly hot San Francisco secondary is sure to be broken down many times.

However, what may go unnoticed and virtually untouched is the offensive weapon Alex Smith may get back just in time for the biggest game of his NFL career.

Delanie Walker, although not a premiere piece of the 49ers' offensive game-plan, is another weapon Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman can add to their scheme against New York on Sunday if healthy.

Walker has been out since the Week 16 game against the Seattle Seahawks when Leroy Hill unintentionally kicked Walker in the head breaking his jaw. He is supposed to be re-evaluated by doctors on Monday and hopes to receive the go-ahead to return to practice and play in the NFC Championship.

Given the amount of tight end sets the 49ers use at different points in the game, Walker would be an excellent weapon to have back for Smith, who has sought him out several times this season for big gains in critical moments of the game. He is another phase of the game the Giants will have to address for Sunday.

Justin Peelle, the 49ers' third-string tight end, filled in nicely for Walker against the Saints on Saturday, but was not much of an offensive threat, as his blocking is considered his best asset.

Walker has slowly improved his blocking ability, although not much is known of how healthy and ready to block New York's relentless pass rush he will be come Sunday.

If Walker receives medical clearance this week to play in the NFC Championship, we are sure to see a nice mix of both Peelle and Walker at different moments in the game. Walker will be used as that extra weapon Smith can rely on, since the two seem to have had good chemistry on offense this season and throughout their careers, and Peelle should see time when Smith needs that extra protection from the Giants pass rush that will be so crucial on Sunday.

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