D-line getting better but not healthier

The 49ers' defensive line is looking a lot better these days, performance-wise, but it sure isn't getting any healthier. Defensive end Andre Carter could miss a second straight game with back problems this week, and now it looks as though second-year end Andrew Williams won't be back until after the team's Oct. 24 bye week.

Carter missed practice again Wednesday and he is listed as doubtful to play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Coach Dennis Erickson said Carter's back is better than it was last week – when he was forced to miss the Saints game – but it is still an iffy proposition at best that he'll play Sunday.

Otis Leverette played well in Carter's place, recording four tackles and one of San Francisco's three quarterback sacks. Leverette is likely to start again against Seattle, with Brandon Whiting expected to come of the inactive list and make his first appearance of the season. Whiting practiced Wednesday and is expected to practice throughout the week, barring any setbacks.

"I thought Otis played pretty well (against New Orleans)," Erickson said. "He played with a lot of energy and didn't make mistakes. He made some big plays for us. He almost knocked the ball out a couple of times. We're happy with how he played. I'm expecting Brandon to play, too. He should be ready to go. Otis would start and we'd move Brandon in at both ends if Andre can't play."

Williams, the second-year player who was expected to make an impact in the rotation at end this season, broke his left fibula early in training camp but originally was expected to return to action by the end of this month.

But his leg is still in a cast, and Erickson revealed Wednesday that it could still be more than a month before he is able to play again.

"His healing is slower than it was anticipated," Erickson said. "They are looking at after the bye week now. You can't do anything about that. It's all about how it heals."

At least the Niners are getting quality play from the reserves they brought in recently to help out on a makeshift line that isn't exactly looking so makeshift anymore. The Niners rank seventh in the NFL in total defense, third against the run and third in sacks per play.

Leverette has been a find, and recent pickups Tony Brown and James Atkins have contributed to that performance with solid efforts in reserve.

"They did exactly what we wanted them to do," Erickson said. "They came in and spotted plays. We had Tony in the nickel. He played well in the nickel. James came in for (Bryant Young) in certain situations in the running game and that's what we are asking them to do."

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