Injuries play a role in all NFL games, but during the preseason they take on an added presence given the battles for playing time and of course precious roster spots. While the 49ers have avoided too many significant injuries, they have dealt with a variety of smaller injuries that could result in some folks being questionable for next week. If that is the case, the 49ers could make certain roster decisions in the short term that will change within the first week or two of the season.
Heading into tonight's game against the San Diego Chargers, the 49ers are likely to be shorthanded at outside linebacker. Parys Haralson and Eric Bakhtiari have both missed some practice this week, while Cam Johnson finally returned to practice after an extended absence. Aldon Smith is expected to play tonight, so he and Ahmad Brooks would get the start, while Ikaika Alama-Francis, Kenny Rowe and Cam Johnson could see extended playing time. There has been no word from anybody but Johnson that he will play, but given the short-handed group, it seems likely.
Demarcus Dobbs is likely questionable at best for tonight while he deals with a leg issue. He was on crutches this week, which does not bode well for tonight. The 49ers brought back defensive lineman Matthew Masifilo and that would seem to indicate Dobbs likely will not play tonight.
Dobbs' injury would seem to come close to sewing up a roster spot for tight end Konrad Reuland. It remains to be seen how long that roster spot would exist, but Reuland would be needed in a third tight end role if Dobbs is not 100%. Dobbs' injury could also open the door at outside linebacker for at least a week or two. Eric Bakhtiari was working his way toward a roster spot before this head injury. He or Ikaika Alama-Francis have a better shot at a roster spot for the start of the season if again, Dobbs is not at 100%.
On the offensive side of the ball, Mario Manningham likely won't be back in time from a family funeral, and Ted Ginn Jr. is dealing with his ankle injury. Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss would seem likely to start, but we can expect plenty of playing time from Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Brett Swain, Nathan Palmer and Chris Owusu. Those latter two would seem to be battling for a practice squad spot. Jenkins and Williams are battling for any additional playing time they can muster, and Brett Swain? Well, I don't really know what to make of Brett Swain.
Finally, at running back, Brandon Jacobs will likely be sidelined with his knee injury, while LaMichael James would apparently seem to be good to go. Whatever the case with James, I think we can expect to see a whole lot of Anthony Dixon tonight.