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The 49ers are 2-0, but they may enter Week 3 without their best left-sided linemen on either side of the ball. Joe Staley fractured his fibula in the third quarter of Sunday’s 41-17 win, and Dee Ford did not play in the second half due to what was initially termed “hamstring irritation.” Head coach Kyle Shanahan provided an update on Ford and Nick Bosa’s statuses, his approach to a replacement left tackle and set the stage for some veteran bristling at another week-plus long East Coast trip.
Is Justin Skule the plan at left tackle? Probably… but maybe not
The 49ers only depth options on the tackle front are rookie Justin Skule (sixth-round pick from Vanderbilt this year) and Daniel Brunskill, a 25-year-old who can play anywhere across the line, but is technically listed as a tackle (thrived in the AAF most recently with the San Diego Fleet). Right now, it seems like it’s Skule’s job to lose.
Shanahan said the 49ers would likely work tackles out later this week, but nothing was set in stone. He seemed disillusioned with the current tackle options on the market, and said if there were solid options, he and general manager John Lynch would be aggressive in trying to acquire them.
“We would love to if there were options,” Shanahan said. “We look at anything that’s possible. I don’t think there’s a ton of great options out there that are possible.”
That answer spurred a battery of questions about Skule’s capability. If we’re wondering whether Mike McGlinchey could move to the left side, don’t. Just because “The Blind Side” stresses the importance of the blind side tackle, doesn’t make one side more or less important than the other, at least in Shanahan’s mind.
“I don’t see a difference,” Shanahan said. “Von Miller always rushes on our right side. There’s movies named after the left side and stuff like that, but once you get past that, then I don’t see much of a difference.”
Shanahan said he had hoped Skule wouldn’t be thrust into the fire like he might be this week (both he and Brunskill will practice at left tackle this week and the 49ers will “see how it unfolds on Sunday”). But Skule’s experience as a four-year starter at Vanderbilt gives Shanahan confidence that he’ll be able to compete.
“It was good to get him in a real NFL game especially since he’s going to be playing a lot next week,” Shanahan said. “The game’s not too big for him. That’s what we liked a lot about him, being a four-year starter in the SEC at Vanderbilt. He got to play against a lot of good players, always throughout the entire game. He played the whole game pretty well. Wasn’t always a ton of great highlight tape plays, but he was a guy the game wasn’t too big for and helped his team win.”
The rookie was described as essentially being without the noticeable plays in his game like pancake blocks, but that he gets the job done. As the questions about Skule piled up, Shanahan attempted to dissuade the concerns, recalling that Staley, Joe Thomas and Trent Williams (all players he coached) all needed help from time to time.
It was a noble answer attempted to support a rookie who will need as much confidence and encouragement as possible, though it was a woefully imperfect comparison. Still, there’s a reason Skule made the roster. He was praised by fellow Vanderbilt alum Jordan Matthews in training camp as being in store for a prosperous career due to his humility.
Shanahan said Skule would not have made the roster if the team did not have confidence in his capability.
“When you go to your final roster at 53, at every single position whoever’s on it, you’re looking at all options out there to see if that was the case with Skule on final 53 and we were trying to see who was better at that time two weeks ago and we kept Skule because we thought he was the best available,” Shanahan said. “That doesn’t change now. I think Skule’s going to be a lot better throughout his career, but we kept him on this team because he can help us win now and unfortunately, he’s going to get thrown into that right now. We were hoping it wouldn’t happen that way, but he’ll step it up.”
Ford’s status is uncertain, but Shanahan did not appear optimistic
Shanahan revealed Monday that Dee Ford’s knee/hamstring tendinitis, which sidelined him for the majority of training camp, resurfaced in Cincinnati. Ford had been surprisingly confident after being green lit to return, saying that while the chronic tendinitis was something he’d dealt with his whole career, it was an issue that he and the 49ers would “put to bed this year.”
Clearly, that did not happen, Shanahan explained Monday.
“Yes, same area, quad/knee area,” Shanahan said. “He’s still hurting today. We’ll see how he is for practice on Wednesday. I don’t have anything new to update today, but practice will definitely be in question for Wednesday.”
Youngstown 2.0? Shanahan’s hopeful, but don’t expect Richard Sherman’s family to be happy
Kyle Shanahan really, really wants to take another two-week trip to the East Coast. If it does happen, it’ll be when the 49ers face the Baltimore Ravens on December 1 and the New Orleans Saints December 8 (both games scheduled for 10 a.m. PT starts). Shanahan said he’ll need the team’s travel guys, Steve Risser (director of team logistics), and Michael Slap (team logistics manager), to come through.
Asked whether h would consult the 49ers’ leadership council (composed of the team’s captains and veterans), Shanahan was indifferent.
“I haven’t had [a conversation] with them yet and I don’t think I totally have to,” Shanahan said. “They know how [Youngstown] went and I think they understand. I think everyone has different opinions, but I think no one will argue with the fact that it does make sense.”
Richard Sherman is a member of that council, and while he acknowledged the results on the trip to Youngstown on Sunday, he said another one won’t go over so well with his wife, Ashley Moss, and his son, Rayden, and daughter, Avery.
“Honestly, I’m trying not to look that far down the line,” Sherman said Sunday. “When we’re asked about that by Kyle, we’ll address that. Obviously, we won this game and we had a successful trip, so I’m sure they’ll take that into account, but I’m sure they’ll take what our wives have to say and what his wife has to say and what the kids have to say as well. You might be taking a bigger trip, a bigger group of people the next time. I don’t think they’re going to take another 10-day away from the family in the middle of December or whenever that is, November.”