As one might imagine on a team that ranks 31st in passing offense, the 49ers’ receivers have accumulated some pitiful statistics this season.
With one exception.
Receiver Jeremy Kerley is on pace for more catches, receiving yards and touchdowns than he’s ever had in his six-year career. His 26 receptions through five games are double that of the team’s second-leading catcher, running back Carlos Hyde, and his 304 receiving yards are more than twice that of the next most prolific pass catcher, tight end Garrett Celek, who has 135 yards.
Still, Kerley said he had no complaints that quarterback Blaine Gabbert, with whom he obviously built a strong rapport, has lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick.
“It has nothing to do with me,” Kerley said Wednesday. “My job is to catch the ball. Their job is to throw the ball. I don’t care where Blaine’s putting it. I don’t care where Kap’s putting it. I’m going to catch it. That’s what I’m paid to do.”
Sunday’s game in Buffalo pits Kerley against the same type of defense he used to face in practice when he was with the Jets. He spent four seasons under then-Jets coach Rex Ryan, who is now the Bills’ coach.
Kerley said one thing is for certain – Ryan likes to blitz and tends to double down on that effort when an offense is working a different quarterback into the lineup. Kerley, who plays out of the slot, often will be Kaepernick’s “hot” receiver in those situations.
“I think of it like, ‘Every time they blitz, we’re looking to hurt them, too,’ ” Kerley said. “So as much as they want to blitz, that’s as much we’ll keep going at them.”
Ryan, meanwhile, called Kerley fantastic and praised the receiver’s work ethic.
“He just loves to play football,” Ryan said. “(Kerley) doesn’t like being a punt returner too much, but he likes everything else.”
In fact, Ryan said he thought Kerley’s aversion to punt returning was a factor in why the receiver didn’t want to sign with the Bills in free agency in March. Instead, he signed with the Lions, who traded him to the 49ers at the end of the preseason.
“Trust me, that was one of the reasons he never came here,” Ryan said. “Because I was going to say, ‘You have to be our primary punt returner.’ I think he had enough of that.”
Kerley laughed when that was relayed to him. No, he didn’t enjoy returning punts in New York, he said, because the Jets were so intent on blocking punts they didn’t spend much time blocking for Kerley, who found opponents in his face as soon as the ball arrived.
But that’s not why he didn’t go to Buffalo.
“(Detroit) was just a better opportunity,” Kerley said. “Rex knows that. Me and Rex have a good relationship.”
Injuries – Outside linebacker Tank Carradine, who suffered a toe injury in last Thursday’s game, was a full participant in practice. The only player who didn’t practice was cornerback Jimmie Ward, who appears a week or two away from returning from a quadriceps injury.
Defensive linemen DeForest Buckner (foot) and Glenn Dorsey (knee) and tight end Vance McDonald (hip) – all of whom missed last Thursday’s game – were limited in practice.