Sunday might be the most consequential game of the season for the 49ers. Their second and final matchup with the reigning Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams could put them in a brutal 3-5 hole or make them frontrunners to win the division at the halfway point.
They’ll have to face Sunday’s challenge against a Rams team coming off a bye and without the man who has demolished them time after time: Deebo Samuel.
It’s a rare “OUT” designation for a player whose status is often left as questionable until kickoff. Kyle Shanahan said Friday that it wasn’t a close call; he simply wasn’t healthy enough to go.
Samuel has five career touchdowns against the Rams, scoring four times over the last three matchups the two teams have had. He’s averaging 6 catches for 92.6 yards per game over their last five matchups (3 receiving TDs), and has had 107 rushing yards on 20 attempts and 2 rushing TDs over the last three.
It will mean the 49ers will have at least two of their offensive weapons suddenly out. Jauan Jennings was in uniform doing rehab work on Friday, but his status is uncertain. Below are the game status reports:
- WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring)
- DL Arik Armstead (foot, ankle)
- LB Dre Greenlaw (calf)
- FB Kyle Juszczyk (finger)
- Jason Verrett (knee)
- WR Jauan Jennings (hamstring)
For the Rams, who are coming off a bye week, there are only two names on the injury report, and one of them is not an injury.
Cam Akers, who the Rams have reportedly been trying to trade, is out. Wide receiver Brandon Powell, nursing an ankle injury, is questionable.
The lingering other question for the 49ers is about Jason Verrett. Shanahan said he’s looked better this week, but that the team has not decided how or if they’ll use him.
Shanahan has consistently stated the 49ers will be cautious with Verrett, citing how he returned in 2019 against the Pittsburgh Steelers too early. The 49ers thought he was ready, but Verrett got burned on back-to-back plays. That was the end of his season.
They have an obvious desire to avoid a similar situation, and need Verrett now more than they did then. But Shanahan said Wednesday that the 49ers haven’t had a full practice in “a number of weeks.” That begs the question as to how you get Verrett ready for game action.
One option that Shanahan said the team is considering, is to play him on a limited number of snaps.
“That’s something we are considering,” Shanahan said. “If we feel good about Verrett whether he’s starting or whether he’s getting 15 plays, that’s something that will help our team.”
San Francisco obviously faces a number of questions as to how they’ll attack the Rams with an offense that’s scored just 20.7 points per game (20th in the NFL) with Samuel, Juszczyk and Jennings in the lineup.
Without them (or without at least Samuel and Juszczyk), an increased role for Christian McCaffrey looms large.