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The Biggest Concern For The 49ers

The 49ers are currently 1-2 and heading into their first matchup against the Los Angeles Rams this season. While there is plenty of football left to be played, there is one big concern for the Niners moving forward.

The 49ers Injury Bug Strikes Again

During last Sunday night’s game in Denver, a few of the Niners’ players suffered injuries. Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair suffered an MCL sprain and will miss some time. Al-Shaair has been a great piece of their defense the last couple of years and they will miss his presence. However, this was not the biggest blow that San Francisco suffered during the game.

Starting all-pro left tackle, Trent Williams, suffered a high ankle sprain and will miss multiple weeks of action. The 49ers don’t have any viable substitution to fill his shoes while he is injured at one of the most important positions in football. With an offense already struggling, not having Williams who is arguably their best player is going to be a massive hurdle in the next handful of weeks.

When Williams exited the game, the 49ers played Jaylon Moore at left tackle and he was pulled very quickly due to his struggles. He allowed two pressures in just over a handful of snaps before he was replaced by Colton McKivitz. Both players struggled in the final preseason game against the Texans this year and quarterback Trey Lance was running for his life. With one of them potentially being the weekly starter while Williams is injured, it will be even more difficult considering Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t have the mobility to scramble and escape pressure.

Garoppolo will be under more pressure regularly due to Williams’ absence. It will be extremely important that McGlinchey plays a really good stretch of games in pass protection. If he doesn’t then both sides of the pocket will be collapsing on Garoppolo and he already has inexperienced offensive linemen on the interior.

Missing starting offensive linemen, especially one being the best in the NFL, and not having your starting running back is going to be one of Kyle Shanahan’s biggest challenges when it comes to putting the offense in a position to put up points. Even if McKivitz or Moore play well and look serviceable at left tackle, that is still a massive downgrade to go from the best tackle in football to serviceable. And serviceable looks like it may be a big ask at times when it comes to both players.

It is also possible that veteran offensive lineman, Daniel Brunskill, starts at left tackle. Brunskill injured his hamstring during the first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers and has been out since. But Shanahan announced that Brunskill is returning to practice this on a limited basis. With his first practice of the season, it looks like he will be returning sooner than later.

Brunskill is one of the 49ers’ utility linemen who can line up practically anywhere. Brunskill has decent experience starting at tackle in the NFL so he might be the best option. The Niners also signed Blake Hance from waivers when putting together their 53-man roster. Hance may get an opportunity to slide outside to left tackle if he looks better than McKivitz and Moore.

No matter who plays on the outside, protecting Garoppolo’s blind side is going to be essential for the offense to have rhythm. The 49ers won’t have to worry about the offense carrying the load because the defense is clearly the best part of this team. With the level of dominance, the defense has displayed, the offense just needs to be good. They don’t necessarily need to be great, but certainly better than what we have seen in two of the first three games this season.

Kyle Shanahan has had great success when matching up with Sean McVay and the Rams so we will see how well he’s able to get the offense going on Monday night without arguably his best player against the Rams.

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