Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
The 49ers went down to the Big Easy and handed the New Orleans Saints their second home loss of the season. While the team and fanbase are riding high after such a big win, the Niners did sustain some losses on Sunday, some whichcould have major ramifications over the last three weeks of the season.
Center Weston Richburg suffered a torn patella tendon in his right knee, an injury that will require surgery and cost him the remainder of the 2019 season. Richburg had been good but not great during the 2019 season, he’d played 835 offensive snaps this season allowing one sack, two hits, and 15 pressures. He’s the unquestioned leader of one of the better offensive line units in football, responsible for dictating blocking assignments and valuable in the running game because of his athleticism and ability to get to the second level on running plays. Following Richburg’s injury, Ben Garland stepped into the center role and performed well. Garland played 36 snaps, allowing one pressure and one hurry as Shanahan moved Garoppolo around in the pocket to lessen the pressure on their new center. Luckily for Garland, he has a history with Shanahan’s offense dating back to his years in Atlanta and right tackle Mike McGlinchey said he “is as good of a preparer as I’ve ever been around in the game.”
On Tuesday the team announced that receiver Marquise Goodwin was placed on IR with the knee and ankle injuries that have kept him inactive the last few weeks. While Shanahan seems confident in his top three receivers, Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, and Kendrick Bourne,the position group is still relatively light with rookie Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor already on the IR. On Wednesday the 49ers re-signed receiver Jordan Matthews, who had been with the team during training camp and the preseason before being released, he was brought back for one game earlier in the season before being released a second time. Matthews is already familiar with the playbook and should be able to step in and spell any of the above receivers adequately.
Injuries mounted on the defensive side of the ball as well on Sunday. Cornerback Richard Sherman suffered a hamstring strain that’s expected to keep him out at least two weeks. Second-year cornerback Emmanuel Moseley filled in admirably for Ahkello Witherspoon earlier this year and should be able to step in and lessen the blow of losing Sherman. Nickel-cornerback K’Waun Williams also missed some time Sunday while going through concussion protocol after making a tackle on Alvin Kamara. If Williams isn’t able to play Sunday,then D.J. Reed, also a second-year cornerback, would likely step into the nickel role. The Niners also brought back Dontae Johnson for added depth in the secondary over the next few weeks.
Nose tackle D.J. Jones suffered an ankle injury that Kyle Shanahan said may keep him out for the rest of the season. The loss of Jones could be costly, as he is possibly the most underrated out of the Niners’ defensive unit, and he has a unique blend of size and athleticism that will be difficult to replace. The most likely candidates to take his place on the interior are Sheldon Day and Solomon Thomas. Day has been excellent since coming over from the Jacksonville Jaguars on a waiver-wire claim. Thomas, on the other hand, has shown spurts of what he’s capable of, especially when playing on the interior. Second-year defensive lineman Kentavius Street has also said he’s ready to play and contribute if called upon, saying he’s ready to “run through a wall.” It would be Street’s first live action of his career.
Also expected to miss the next two weeks is defensive end Dee Ford, who only played four snaps in his first game back after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury. The team announced that Ford had reaggravated the injury and will likely return in Week 17.
The 49ers were just getting healthy. These injuries don’t come at the best time, but the Niners haves hown the resilience to battling through injuries earlier this season, hopefully Ford and Sherman are able to return before the playoffs. Either way, the 49ers will need their defense to produce over the next three weeks, so it’s next man up in San Francisco.
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