Quinton Patton's brief tenure as a 49er is off to about as good a start as one could ask for. The fourth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech suited up for his first preseason game Sunday and caught passes in each of his first two snaps, the second going for a 5-yard touchdown.
The performance immediately changed the outlook of the wide receiving corps that will begin the season without injured Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham.
"I got very excited about him tonight, strong player," coach Jim Harbaugh said immediately following Sunday's game. "He's been showing that in practice and to see him take that to the game, that was also really encouraging."
For quarterback Colin Kaepernick, what makes a good receiver is simple: the ability to get open. That was the theme of his praise of Crabtree throughout the 2012 season and Patton fits the bill.
"He is someone that it is easy to have chemistry with," Kaepernick said. "He knows where windows are in defenses. He knows how to get open."
His 104 receptions for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns led the Western Athletic Conference last year, but an impressive college stat line doesn't always necessarily translate to the NFL game.
The difference? Physicality.
"I think he's a good physical player," Harbaugh said. "I don't think that the big stage bothers him, and it doesn't make him nervous."
How the rest of the receiving corps looks when the team trims its roster to 53 players remains to be seen, but for Patton the question is now a matter of how he'll play, rather than if he'll make the team.
Anquan Boldin and Kyle Williams are locks. Marlon Moore has started every preseason game and Jon Baldwin looked good just days after he was swapped for A.J. Jenkins. The other candidates include special teams ace Kassim Osgood, training camp standout Chad Hall, undrafted rookie Chuck Jacobs and veterans Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins.
Hawkins returned a kickoff for a touchdown on Sunday, but was flagged three times.