Can the 49ers Avoid the Injury Bug?
Two hundred ninety-five: the number of games missed due to injury by the 2017 San Francisco 49ers according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. That represents the second highest in the NFL last season (the New York Giants led with 309). Statistics tells us that that number should come down some (regression to the mean), but the front office has also taken steps to help the 2018 squad survive the injury bug through smart drafting and strategic free agent signings.
According to Pro Football Focus the 49ers used 10 different offensive line combinations, which, is among the lowest in the NFL, however, the team’s lack of depth was painfully obvious during a Week 8 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. This was a game that saw Erik Magnuson forced in to duty at right tackle after spending the season converting to the interior. The horrors of the game versus the Eagles affected the thinking of general manager John Lynch this offseason. The 49ers drafted Mike McGlinchey with the ninth pick in this year’s draft. The extremely durable McGlinchey replaces Trent Brown who consistently battled weight and work ethic issues. Lynch also opened the checkbook for free agent center, Weston Richburg, whose 2017 season was limited to just 4 games due to injury. However, reports have said that Richburg was healthy enough to return and was placed on injured reserve over his objection. Versatile offensive lineman Mike Person, who had his best season in 2015 as a center for the Atlanta Falcons under Kyle Shanahan, and guard, Jonathan Cooper, a former first round pick,have been brought in as free agents to add depth. The newly remodeled Joshua Garnett, who was placed on IR last year before the season started, is down 25 pounds and will be in the mix at guard as well.
The offensive line was not the only position group to be affected by injuries. The team’s two biggest free agent signings from 2017 missed significant time due to injury. wide receiver Pierre Garcon who was limited to 8 games and Malcolm Smith who was slated to start at weakside linebacker last year but missed the entire season due to a torn pectoral muscle. First-round pick, Reuben Foster would fill in for Smith, but missed six games due to his own injuries. Safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward would also be bitten by the injury bug. To buttress against injury Shanahan and Lynch doubled up at wide receiver in the 2018 Draft, selecting Dante Pettis (second round) and Richie James (seventh round).In the third round, the 49ers added Fred Warner out of BYU to the linebacking corps and signed free agent linebackers Jeremiah Attaochu, and Korey Toomer. The 49ers added reformed Seahawk Richard Sherman (who is coming off a torn Achilles) and three rookies to the defensive back room in the form of cornerbacks Tarvarious Moore, and DJ Reed (my pick for a late round sleeper) and safety Marcell Harris.
The competition for roster spots promises to be fierce as the 49ers appear to be going with an iron-sharpens-iron approach. The increased depth and competition should help the 49ers avoid the steep drop off experienced at times in 2017. A little luck never hurt either and just to just to be on the safe side I will be ordering salt and horseshoes form Amazon.
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