© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
The injury glut across the 49ers defense appears to be easing. While the defensive line is still without many of its key players for the remainder of the season (Ronald Blair III, D.J. Jones, Damontre Moore) and without Dee Ford for the remaining regular season, the issues in the secondary will be lessened this week.
Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams back in action
After a game in which the defense fell apart late and was shredded by the ole reliable Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones combination (20 targets, 13 receptions, 134 yards, 2 TD), the sight of K’Waun Williams and Richard Sherman back on the 49ers’ practice field on Tuesday was likely a welcome sight.
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) December 17, 2019
Williams, who is out of concussion protocol, was seen heading a soccer ball in the locker room before practice and will be in line to play Saturday against the Rams. He’s been the glue in the secondary all season long, and without him, D.J. Reed was thrust into a start against Jones, which, as all were witness to, did not go well.
Sherman told reporters he could have played last week if it was necessary, but understood the training staff sought to protect him. Kyle Shanahan didn’t say he was 100 percent to play, and that Wednesday will be the day to test Sherman in more of a game-like setting.
“We’ll see out there, Sherm’s been better since he got in the locker room in New Orleans according to him and because he has that mindset, it’s what gives him a chance to be better,” Shanahan said. “So trainers feel good about him going out there today, it’ll be a walkthrough, so we’ll be able to test that a little bit more tomorrow.”
The one obvious absence from that returning duo is Jaquiski Tartt, who is still dealing with a broken rib. There is a possibility he could practice on Wednesday. Jullian Taylor, with a right elbow ligament issue, was also out of practice, but was seen doing some sideline work.
“Just day-to-day, I’m just waiting on his ribs to recover,” Shanahan said. “It feels a lot closer than last week, but not good enough to go today. He’ll have a chance tomorrow.”
A Kwon Alexander return?
When Kwon Alexander tore his right pectoral against the Arizona Cardinals on October 31, it seemed all but certain his season was over. In all likelihood, it is. But because the 49ers will be in the playoffs and injured reserve players are eligible to return in the playoffs, there is still a chance, as infinitesimal as it may be, that he returns.
Shanahan said he was ready for questions about Alexander after Kendrick Bourne had posted a video of Alexander catching passes on his Instagram story with the caption, “Kwon said he comin back this year.”
Kwon Alexander is back on the practice field doing side work.
Note on Kendrick Bourne’s IG story: “Kwon said he comin back this year” 👀 pic.twitter.com/yWJp3TwTJZ
— TheSFNiners (@TheSFNiners) December 16, 2019
“It’d be awesome if he could, but I mean, it’s a really big injury. That would be down the road, so it would be an outside chance at it but we haven’t ruled it out,” Shanahan said. “Kwon, same as Sherman. Kwon thought he could have come back the next week. They’re made of the right stuff, you think that way, it’s your mind, sometimes your body will follow, so we won’t rule it out, but that’s a long shot and it’s not anytime soon.”
Other notes: Suggs waiver claim and lack of sacks
- It was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the 49ers were one of four teams to have put a waiver claim in for the recently released Terrell Suggs. Shanahan acknowledged that was true, saying, “We just thought he would help us, a good pass rusher out there who’s a vet. Could help a lot of teams and we would’ve definitely preferred for him to help us over people we have to go against.”
- In the past four weeks, the 49ers’ defense has forced just one turnover in each game. In the last three weeks, they’ve had just three sacks. The last time the team had an interception was in Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals. Sure, the opponents have been far tougher in recent weeks than at the start of the season, but the attrition and injury issues on the defensive side of the ball have been a clear cause of the downturn. While Shanahan declined to place the blame on injuries, he acknowledged they’re a factor.
“Anytime you miss people it definitely gets harder,” Shanahan said. “But, as every single person says when someone asks them that question, it’s not an excuse, it doesn’t put that in the win-loss column. The more we have had people out, I think the chances of turnovers does go down, but if we want to win we’ve got to find ways to create them and hopefully our guys can get going and create some more. If not, we’ve got to do something schematically, but it’s tough to win when you don’t get turnovers and we’ve got to make sure we find a way to do it.”