The San Francisco 49ers released their inactives 90 minutes before their game against the Oakland Raiders, and in a bit of a surprise, the team elected to de-activate Brandon Lloyd, and activate Quinton Patton. This marked the first time Patton had been active this season. He finished the game with one target and no receptions during 12 offensive snaps. He also had four special teams snaps.
On Monday, Jim Harbaugh was asked about the decision to play Patton instead of Lloyd. He did not provide much detail, but said, "I felt based on the week that he had, and has been having, that was the move. A gut decision. Based on the way he'd been playing."
Brandon Lloyd has been listed with a quadricep injury since Week 12. All three weeks, he has been listed as a full participant in practice, and then probable on Sunday. Based on that and Harbaugh's comment, I would think this is not a health decision. But the question then becomes whether or not this was a one-week thing, or Patton will be active on gameday the remaining three weeks of the season.
Patton dealt with a couple notable injuries during his rookie season. He missed the first couple of weeks of training camp with a finger injury, then flashed some skills late in the preseason. He missed extended time during the middle of the season, and had two catches against Arizona, including one that was pretty impressive. The fact that he tried to come to the facility before he was allowed, and the big preseason performances had the bandwagon (or battlewagon, for those requiring that) in full effect.
The 49ers will head into the offseason with a lot of questions at wide receiver. Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson are under contract next year, but after that, the group rest of the corps is up in the air. We know Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton, and Chuck Jacobs will all be under contract, but Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd are both due to hit free agency. These final three weeks won't tell us whether or not Patton can be a contributor next season, but it would still be nice to see the young receivers get some opportunities on offense. It is entirely possible Quinton Patton won't do anything, and that will be that, but hopefully some strong practice time has gotten him a chance to show what he can do (or can't do, I suppose) in game action.