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Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington will get more looks if Torrey Smith misses Bengals game

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Torrey Smith is dealing with an injury, but his loss could be Quinton Patton or Bruce Ellington's gain.

The San Francisco 49ers chose to play wide receiver Torrey Smith against the Cleveland Browns, despite back and toe injuries that forced him out of practice on Thursday and had him limited on Friday leading up to the game. It's been a persistent injury for Smith, which would be a major concern if the 49ers were playoff-bound but has been somewhat overlooked given the state of the current team.

Smith did take on a decreased workload in Sunday's game, of course. He played in 27 snaps on offense, or 48 percent of the snaps on that side of the ball. Anquan Boldin played on 89 percent of snaps and Quinton Patton was the primary beneficiary of Smith's injury, playing on 57 percent of offensive snaps. Bruce Ellington also saw an uptick in playing time, getting in on 34 percent of snaps.

Jerome Simpson, a guy I mistakenly had high hopes for, saw the field on 13 snaps.

Patton did have one of his best games of the season due to the increased playing time, but that didn't translate into much. Facing a hugely depleted Browns defense, Patton caught five of the nine passes thrown his way for 46 yards, with a long of 13 yards. Ellington saw one target on offense and he did not catch the ball. He has just nine catches for 54 yards on the season.

Previously, I wrote about how the 49ers need to throw Patton and Ellington in there sooner rather than later and let the pair sink or swim. The 49ers cannot afford to continue to be optimistic about third- and fourth-round wide receivers when they have shown only brief glimpses of potential over the years.

I still stand by the philosophy that these guys should see more playing time over the next couple of games to end the season. The games are meaningless for the 49ers, and I think one important thing to note is that we have already seen enough positives from Smith to know he's worth the free agent contract the 49ers gave him this past offseason.

Smith is a very effective deep threat, his route running has improved since his days with the Baltimore Ravens and I think if the 49ers can get anything going at all on offense, it will have a lot to do with Smith. But the possibility of him missing Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals is a real one, given he has now missed consecutive days at practice.

I'd just like to remind everyone that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The 49ers coaching staff has mismanaged more than one decision this year, and my confidence in their ability to judge when a player isn't at risk for serious injury isn't exactly at an all-time high.