49ers offense searching for answers
Kyle Williams caught four touchdowns in four seasons with the 49ers. (USATSI)
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UPDATE (1:20 p.m. on Tuesday) -- The 49ers released wide receiver Kyle Williams and cornerback Perrish Cox on Tuesday, and activated rookie linebacker Nick Moody.
“Decisions like these are always difficult, especially at this time of year,” said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. “Kyle and Perrish have represented the 49ers organization very well, both on and off the field. We appreciate their dedication and contributions and wish them all the best.”
The 49ers on Tuesday morning informed wide receiver Kyle Williams of his release, his agent, Wynn Silberman, told CSNBayArea.com.
The move brings an end to Williams’ four seasons with the 49ers, which will mostly be remembered for his two costly turnovers on punt returns in the NFC championship game against the New York Giants after the 2011 season.
The 49ers made the move to place Williams on waivers just two days after he was demoted from return duties in the team’s 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Williams struggled in the 49ers’ Oct. 27 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars with a fumbled kickoff return, a muffed punt and a 4-yard kickoff return out of bounds in the first half.
[RECAP: Panthers 10, 49ers 9]
LaMichael James, a second-round pick in 2012, handled punt-return chores for the first time in his career on Sunday. He returned three punts for 35 yards. Anthony Dixon took over on kickoff returns. Dixon made an ill-advised decision to return a ball from 6 yards deep in the fourth quarter, taking it out to only the 12-yard line.
Williams also saw a decrease in snaps on offense as Mario Manningham returned to the active roster and started at wide receiver alongside Anquan Boldin. Williams, a starter for most of the season, had just 12 receptions for 113 yards in nine games.
The 49ers expect to further bolster their group of wide receivers in the near future with the addition of Michael Crabtree to the 53-man roster. Crabtree returned to practice last week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles in May.
Williams told CSNBayArea.com last week he was excited for Manningham and Crabtree to get back on the playing field even though, he said, “I know what that means for me.”
Williams expected a decrease in playing time. Obviously, he did not expect to hit the waiver wire. Williams defended his play this season, saying his low catch total was not indicative of how he was performing.
“When I was on the field, I was able to get open,” Williams said. “The ball didn’t always come my way, but we got great weapons on offense. The ball is going to go wherever the ball has to go in certain situations. And those guys continue to make plays, so you got to get in where you fit in when it comes to a team like this with so many weapons.”
The 49ers are expected to promote rookie linebacker Nick Moody to the 53-man roster, coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday.
Williams was a sixth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2010. In 38 career games, Williams caught 47 passes for 574 yards and four touchdowns. He earned a roster spot in 2012 after his turnovers led to 10 points, including the game-winning field goal in overtime in the 49ers’ 20-17 loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship.
Williams sustained a torn ACL last season, so he was not available for the postseason. He returned this season and won the job to open the year as the No. 2 wide receiver and return specialist. He averaged 5.1 yards on 12 punt returns and called a league-high 20 fair catches.