SANTA CLARA -- Jon Baldwin doesn't talk like a flamboyant, play-making receiver. But it's time for him to play like one for the 49ers.

The 49ers' receiving corps needs an extra threat, having been hindered by injuries to Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and now Quinton Patton.

Enter Baldwin, who was acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug. 19 and finally made his 49ers debut Sept. 26 in a 35-11 victory at St. Louis.

"He's eager," veteran wideout Anquan Boldin said. "He's a talented, big-body guy who has the capability to go get the ball. He creates mismatches for guys because of his size."

Baldwin used his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame to catch both passes -- both on third down -- that came his way against the Rams for 19 yards.

Those were enough to increase his stock as the 49ers (2-2) head into Sunday night's matchup with the defensively tough Houston Texans (2-2) at Candlestick Park.

"I'm sure he'll be getting plenty of opportunities this week, and he's got to take advantage of them," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said after the Rams game that he had "a good feeling" about Baldwin, referencing his "competitive heart" a couple of days later.

"It's just something that you see," Harbaugh said. "I guess a bird watcher knows the gist of a bird by just watching it fly. I feel like sometimes I've got an eye for a competitive heart. I see it. I see it with Jon."


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Baldwin was pleased to hear that. But he didn't glow too long in the compliment. Instead, he humbly stated: "I'm going to go out give it the best I can. I just want to make plays and help this team win ballgames."

Baldwin stood on the sideline in sweats the first three games, inactive while the 49ers instead deployed Boldin, Patton, Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and Kassim Osgood.

Observing with Baldwin were Crabtree and Manningham, both of whom are on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list. Crabtree is recovering from a May 21 Achilles tear and likely won't return until at least early December.

Manningham, recovering from knee surgery, said Thursday that he is "feeling better" and "you'll be seeing me soon," conceding that still won't be for a few more games, probably after the Nov. 3 bye.

Thus, Baldwin has an opportunity to step up and show why the Chiefs made him a 2011 first-round draft pick, as opposed to showing why they traded him for A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers' 2012 first-round pick who had no receptions as a rookie.

Baldwin had just two touchdown catches in his two seasons with the Chiefs, a franchise that's now off to a 4-0 start. Although he remains in close touch with star receiver Dwayne Bowe, Baldwin dismisses his Chiefs tenure as "in the past" and is focused on the 49ers.

To enhance his chemistry with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Baldwin and Kaepernick have put in extra time together.

"He's going to be a good asset for us," Kaepernick said. "It's great to have a big-bodied receiver like him. He does a great job with his routes, positioning himself, giving himself an opportunity to make plays."

Baldwin said he must "keep working, keep getting extra reps, and keep catching balls with (Kaepernick) after practice so you can continue to grow off that."

Those extra sessions have focused on Baldwin running routes as the split end. Boldin, meanwhile, often is the flanker, and he's produced a team-high 24 receptions for 372 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's still a work in progress," Boldin said of the receiving corps. "Still young."

Baldwin, by the way, turned 24 on Aug. 10. His 43 career receptions are a mere 753 behind Boldin.

"Only thing I can do is stay humble and work as hard as I possibly can," Baldwin said. "One thing I try to do (is) visualize making plays, so it's a lot easier coming into the game. I've already made those plays."

Seeing will be believing for a 49ers unit looking for a receiving boost.

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

HELP NEEDED

After starter Anquan Boldin, 49ers wide receivers haven't been much help to quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Here's a look at their stats:

Wide receiver Rec. Yds. TDs
Anquan Boldin 24 372 2
Kyle Williams 9 87 0
Jon Baldwin 2 19 0
Marlon Moore 1 6 0
Quinton Patton 1 0 0