SANTA CLARA -- Don't let the Seattle Seahawks' latest roster high jinks overshadow the 49ers' immediate dilemma at the quarterback position.

That being: Can Colin Kaepernick elude the Houston Texans' vaunted defense so the 49ers don't need a backup plan at quarterback Sunday night?

If the 49ers do need to replace Kaepernick because of a potential injury, their options are now Colt McCoy and John Skelton, the latter the former Arizona Cardinals starter who signed a one-year deal Wednesday.

Skelton took the roster spot of B.J. Daniels, a promising rookie but one the 49ers cut on Tuesday amid hopes of re-signing him to the practice squad. Instead, the NFC West-leading Seahawks claimed Daniels off waivers.

Where does all that leave Kaepernick? For now, he remains in the menacing cross hairs of the Texans and defensive end J.J. Watt, the NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

"They, obviously, have a good quarterback who can move around," Watt said Wednesday.

The Texans had trouble last game with a mobile quarterback, as the Seahawks' Russell Wilson constantly kept plays alive in a 23-20, come-from-behind overtime win.

"We are catching two of those schemes back to back, so to speak, with quarterbacks that run a lot and do those type of things," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's a big, big challenge. Colin's a hell of a player. He's got a huge arm and is capable of making big plays down the field on you."


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Kaepernick's legs have been used more this season to escape pressure than to confuse defenses on read-option plays. After frazzled performances in the 49ers' losses to the Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, Kaepernick rebounded with a poised effort in Thursday night's 35-11 win at St. Louis.

Kaepernick knows he can't alone fend off the Texans. He's made a public request for his blockers to excel this week, a group that might not include right tackle Anthony Davis, who didn't practice Wednesday because of a shoulder injury.

"Our offensive line is really going to have to be geared in this week and really handle business up front," Kaepernick said.

Consider Watt the CEO of the Texans' pass-rush business. After tallying an NFL-best 20½ sacks last season, Watt has compiled 3½, including a half-sack Sunday among the Texans' five against Wilson.

"Everything about him is awesome," 49ers right guard Alex Boone said of Watt.

"He can ruin a game for his opponent," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh added. "(He's) strong, has great ability to rush the passer, get past blocks and then he's on the quarterback almost immediately when he's able to that."

Kubiak said Watt and Antonio Smith have made for a formidable front tandem the past three games since Smith returned from a suspension. The Texans likely will assign a spy on Kaepernick, a role that linebacker Whitney Mercilus appeared to do Sunday against Wilson.

While Kaepernick has rushed for 140 yards in four games -- the Kansas City Chiefs' Alex Smith has totaled 151 -- the Texans are determined not to allow a breakout game.

"The best thing that can happen is our guys up front stay disciplined in our pass rush lanes and keeping him somewhat tied up in the pocket as best you can," Kubiak said.

If the Texans happen to knock Kaepernick to the sideline, the 49ers likely will summon McCoy before Skelton, who's attempting to learn their system as fast as possible.

"The great thing about this offense is they're going to play to the strengths of the quarterback," said Skelton, who worked out for the 49ers a month ago. "I'm fairly confident I'm not going to do the type of stuff that Kap can do."

For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.

SUNDAY'S GAME

Houston (2-2) at 49ers (2-2),
5:30 p.m. NBC

Losing the 'W'

49ers safety Donte Whitner has decided to change his name to match his ferocious playing style. Page 5.