49ers gear up for tough road test against Texans

Frank Gore is healthy again and eager to play. Michael Crabtree is set to make his NFL debut and possibly even start. Mike Singletary has made changes to his inconsistent offensive line.

The San Francisco 49ers got a lot done during their bye week and now are gearing up for a tough road game Sunday at Houston, hoping to forget about their 45-10 rout at the hands of Atlanta on Oct. 11.

Gore spent the latter part of the off week at team headquarters working out with Crabtree, the rookie receiver who finally signed a six-year contract Oct. 7 after missing all of training camp and the early weeks of the season.

Gore, the key figure in San Francisco’s power run offense, missed the Niners‘ last two games while recovering from a sprained right ankle. He was injured on his only carry during a 27-24 loss at Minnesota on Sept. 27.

“I’m ready to go. Just trying to get better, get comfortable, just trying to get ready for the game,” Gore said Monday. “I’m like a kid right now. I can’t wait to get back out there with my team.”

Gore said he’s unsure whether he’ll be involved in his regular package of plays, which he expects will be determined by how his practices go this week. He’ll be in constant communication with the coaches about his health.

Singletary hopes a switch on the line will make for stronger blocking when Gore is carrying the ball – and better pass protection for quarterback Shaun Hill, who has taken way too many hits so far. Singletary said part of his bye week work was to evaluate the roster and put the top 53 players in place.

Adam Snyder is moving from right tackle, a position he had shared with Tony Pashos, to right guard. Snyder will alternate at his new spot with Chilo Rachal. Pashos will now be the regular right tackle.

“We want our best five on the field, and we feel like Snyder alternating with Chilo will be good for us to find out who is best at that position,” Singletary said. “(Snyder) was very proactive. ‘Hey, I’m ready to go. Let’s go.’ That was good to see because what I told him previously is I want him to be at that right tackle and just do that position and be the best you can be. But when we started talking about how we wanted the best guys on the field, when we looked at the right guard spot and some of the things that have happened at that spot, I think he saw it too.”

Snyder has four previous starts at right guard. He’s started everywhere but at center for San Francisco.

Crabtree will make his debut in his home state of Texas, and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported there’s a good chance he will start.

Singletary has long given Crabtree the benefit of the doubt, believing the former Texas Tech star will shine at this level. Even if that meant playing catch-up in the past two weeks after missing so much time.

“There are some things that you can prepare him for, but there are other things that he just has to go through and I think that this is one of them,” Singletary said of Crabtree’s first game. “You have to let those guys line up against him and put their hands on you and see some of the complexities of the defense and how they are setting you up. You come to the sideline with your head on a swivel a little bit, but I don’t think that it’s going to be too big for him. To me, even though he’s come in late, he looks like he’s ready.”

Crabtree’s teammates seem to have moved past his prolonged contract impasse, more focused now on what he can do to help the team. San Francisco (3-2) leads the NFC West with wins already over the reigning NFC champion Arizona Cardinals and Seattle.

“I think he (Crabtree) can do well, man,” Gore said. “Just by watching him in college. He was one of the best players in college. Just watching him in the bye week, he looks how he’s supposed to look. He has great hands and he runs good routes. Like I tell him: ‘Just go out there and play football. As long as you know what you’re doing, you’ll be fine.”‘

The evaluation process with Crabtree will be ongoing. Along with his work on the field last week, he spent time in the film room. The 49ers like what they see so far on all fronts.

Singletary and Co. know they’ll learn much more about Crabtree during and after Sunday’s game with the Texans.

“Obviously, once you get in the game when the real bullets are flying, that’s when you can really tell that, ‘You know what, are we helping or hurting his confidence? Is he ready for this? Do we need to back off a bit?”‘ Singletary said. “Or if, ‘Hey he’s ready, let’s pick it up a little bit.’ So, I think he’ll tell us.”