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Muddled mess of early injuries stains 49ers’ backup-dominated preseason win over Cowboys

© Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers began Saturday night sitting 28 players with another two players on the physically unable to perform list. Of that list of 28 players, 13 players were out with injuries, with five that are confirmed to keep those players out of the remainder of the preseason, and another three are unlikely to play in the preseason. They finished Saturday’s game with a 17-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys, but lost much more than they gained.

Here’s what that list of injured players looked like to start the game.

  • Kwon Alexander, who would likely be on the second list if he wasn’t already recovering from an ACL tear
  • Arik Armstead, who could be listed on either list, but has dealt with a calf injury
  • Ronald Blair III, who was dealing with a groin injury and sidelined for the last few practices
  • Nick Bosa, dealing with a severe sprained ankle, out for the preseason
  • Dee Ford, with knee tendinitis (unlikely to play in the preseason, although that has not been stated explicitly)
  • Joshua Garnett, recovering from finger surgery
  • Jerick McKinnon, who received a plasma-rich platelet injection after severe soreness after returning to practice following a “flare-up” in his knee
  • Malcolm Smith, dealing with hamstring tightness over the last week and has not participated in practices
  • Jason Verrett, on the same no-preseason timeline as Bosa with an ankle sprain sustained the same day
  • Jimmie Ward, still recovering from a broken collarbone, has not participated in anything besides walkthroughs to this point
  • K’Waun Williams, who won’t play in the preseason after having his knee scoped
  • Jeff Wilson Jr., dealing with a serious calf issue that’s kept him out of practice since near the start of camp
  • Trent Taylor broke his pinky toe and had a screw inserted on Friday; he is expected back some time early in the year (more on him below)

That list quickly added a few names by the conclusion of the first half on Saturday. It began with an injury to Shon Coleman, the 49ers’ third-best offensive tackle, who went down in a heap following the first play from scrimmage. Here’s the report:

  • Shon Coleman left the game after the 49ers’ first offensive play with an ankle injury in an air cast and on the medical cart, headed into the locker room
  • Raheem Mostert left the game with a concussion after the first play of the 49ers’ second drive of the game
  • D.J. Jones was initially deemed questionable to return with a knee injury in the first quarter, but ruled out for the rest of the game
  • Marcell Harris got the brunt of collision between him and Greg Mabin on a short completion, and was visibly frustrated after exiting the medical tent; he did not head into the locker room, but did not return to the game
  • Najee Toran left the game in the fourth quarter with a hand injury, and was listed as questionable to return, and did not return
  • C.J. Beathard was hit hard on his final snap, and was shaking his hand as he left the field; there was no word on his status

At the moment, 18 of the 90 players on the 49ers’ roster are injured, or working back from serious injuries, to the point that they were not available to play on Saturday. There are surely other minor injuries players are dealing with that we are currently unaware of, but even without those injuries, roughly 18 percent of the team’s roster is unavailable to play.

The Trent Taylor injury

The news of Trent Taylor’s injury was a complete surprise, and was announced live on air by 49ers general manager John Lynch. The 49ers then clarified Taylor’s injury, which was sustained in practice on Thursday. According to the 49ers, he complained of pain after practice, received X-Rays, and was revealed to have fractured his pinky toe. The team’s medical staff believed that addressing it now, as opposed to letting it worsen, was the best course of action, so Taylor had a pin (or screw, some sort of small holding device) inserted in his pinky toe. He is expected to return some time early in the season, but there is no exact timetable as of yet.

The standouts

  • The linebackers: The linebacking corps, without Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander (and Malcolm Smith, though he’s very clearly not in that class anymore), was fantastic outside of a disappointing first series in which the starters, including Dre Greenlaw, were exploited in coverage. Greenlaw was fantastic otherwise, constantly making plays on the ball. Also fantastic was Azeez Al-Shaair, who was a menace to the Cowboys all night. He’s fighting for a roster spot and stole a fumble recovering from defensive lineman Damontre Moore on the bottom of the pile after LaRoy Reynolds forced it out.
  • The young wide receivers: The 49ers are going to have a hard time continuing to hide their excitement about their pair of young wide receivers in Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Both had seriously impressive nights. Hurd caught both of the touchdowns for the 49ers, one from Nick Mullens, who went 11-of-17 with 105 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception that he threw while being hit from behind.
    • The first was caught a few yards in front of the end zone, and Hurd barreled his way in, head down, against the defender to get into the end zone. His second touchdown came on a back shoulder fade from C.J. Beathard, who went 13-for-17 with 1 TD, 1 interception (a truly terrible one, thrown into the basket of a safety). Hurd snagged the ball out the air with relative ease despite the physical defense in the corner.
    • Hurd had 3 receptions for 31 yards and 2 TDs tonight, reaffirming, as he said earlier in training camp, that he’d “love to” be a red zone target
    • Samuel, meanwhile, was a devastating long target. He had a successful jet sweep for 14 yards, along with a pair of receptions for 61 yards (one on a 45-yard catch), and a deep pass interference call which he drew.

The pretty-not-good

  • The entire backup offensive line (and penalties): The amount of penalties the backup offensive line committed was nothing short of embarrassing, even for a preseason game. Once Coleman left the game, the line was poor for the most part on run plays, and allowed pressure multiple times on the quarterback, including a pair of sacks and one occasion which manifested in an interception as Nick Mullens was hit on the pass. As a group, the 49ers had 18 penalties for 216 yards, which, outside of some pass interference calls, were mostly on the offensive line

Final notes

  • Adrian Colbert was ejected after an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver in the third quarter. It came after another hard hit on the prior play.
  • Robbie Gould hit a 53-yard field goal tonight, which matched the longest he had last season

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