By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers defense is ranked 10th in the NFL after two weeks of play, which is impressive considering the team was dead last in total defense a year ago, and the two opponents faced so far this year feature dynamic (if not currently dysfunctional) and talented offenses.
The unit now faces its toughest challenge so far in 2017, and it has nothing to do with the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers’ opponent at home on Thursday Night Football this week. No, the challenge is time, as both teams only have a few days to recover from Week 2’s Sunday action, and that always affects the injury report.
The S.F. secondary is hurting right now
Three members of the 49ers defensive backfield are on the official injury report this week: Eric Reid (knee), Jaquiski Tartt (neck) and Jimmie Ward (hamstring). A nightmare scenario for the San Francisco defense would involve all three missing the Rams game at Levi’s Stadium on Thursday evening.
Reid did not participate in workouts on either Monday or Tuesday, and his PCL injury could keep him out for awhile. He definitely will not play on Thursday night. The depth issue here is that Tartt will replace Reid in the starting lineup, and he’s obviously not at full strength himself.
Although short weeks like this definitely mess with the team’s practice routines, it’s still problematic that Tartt skipped Monday’s practice and was limited on Tuesday, while Ward couldn’t practice fully on either day, although he did partake in some drills. Both are expected to play on Thursday, but their injuries cannot be taken lightly.
Foster is still out, and Kittle will be a game-time decision
Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster is still recovering from a Week 1 high-ankle sprain, and he will not play against the Rams. Meanwhile, starting tight end George Kittle has a hip problem that kept him out of practice on Monday, although he was a limited participant in Tuesday’s workouts. If Kittle can’t go, Garrett Celek and Logan Paulsen are in line for snaps at the position.
Rams looking healthy for Thursday night
Somehow, L.A. only has three players on the injury report, and none of them are starters. Running back Malcolm Brown (hamstring) and cornerback Kayvon Webster (shoulder) were both sidelined during practices on Monday and Tuesday, while tight end Gerald Everett (thigh) missed Monday workouts but was able to participate in a limited fashion during Tuesday’s practice. Otherwise, the Rams are looking very healthy for this game, and that could mean trouble for San Francisco.
- (TE) George Kittle (Calf, Hamstring) — Limited Participation in Practice
- (S) Jaquiski Tartt (Neck) — Limited Participation in Practice
- (S) Jimmie Ward (Hamstring) — Limited Participation in Practice
- (LB) Reuben Foster (Ankle) — Did Not Participate In Practice
- (S) Eric Reid (Knee) — Did Not Participate In Practice