<
>

Delanie Walker's status and 49ers' offense

Delanie Walker's potential return from a broken jaw for the NFC Championship Game could restore a welcome dimension to the San Francisco 49ers' offense.

The sixth-year tight end can be a valuable contributor in multiple ways.

Week 10: Alex Smith Passing by Targets

On offense, Walker gives the 49ers added speed and receiving capabilities in their "12" personnel package featuring one back and two tight ends. The 49ers averaged 102 yards passing per game from this grouping over a seven-game stretch before Walker suffered his jaw injury against Seattle in Week 16. The team has averaged 49.7 yards per game from this grouping over its past three games.

Quarterback Alex Smith completed 9 of 11 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown when targeting tight ends during the 49ers' 27-20 victory over the New York Giants in Week 10, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Walker caught six passes for 69 yards in that game. Vernon Davis had a 31-yard touchdown reception.

Getting Walker back in time to face the Giants on Sunday would buy flexibility for an offense short on high-impact wide receivers. Walker could provide another outlet for Smith if the Giants double-cover Davis, who caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans in the divisional round.

Walker returned to practice Wednesday. The 49ers will evaluate him throughout the week before determining his readiness.