The San Francisco 49ers handled the Houston Texans with relative ease on Sunday, and they can thank their reserves for another stellar performance. Patrick Willis and Nnamdi Asomugha were both inactive, and injuries opened the door for other players to step up.
Willis was inactive for the second straight game, which meant another start for Michael Wilhoite. A week ago, Wilhoite was overshadowed by NaVorro Bowman's monster performance against the Rams. Wilhoite was solid, but it was easy to overlook him. On Sunday against the Texans, Wilhoite burst onto the scene with aplomb, leading the team with 13 tackles, including three for a loss. He was a demon on special teams, and was making plays all over the field with the defense. It was much more of an "equals" performance with Bowman.
Nnamdi was inactive for the second straight game as well, but while Willis will replace Wilhoite when he returns to the lineup, Nnamdi might soon find himself out of a job. Tramaine Brock battled Nnamdi for the third cornerback role throughout camp, but a late camp injury knocked Brock down the depth chart. Now it appears Brock is returning the favor. Nnamdi is recovering from a knee injury, but with Brock playing out of his mind lately, I'm not sure Vic Fangio can justify playing Nnamdi over Brock.
The defense was loaded with stars on Sunday, but Tramaine Brock deserves as much credit as anybody. He opened the game with a pick-six on the third play to give the 49ers the lead. He added another interception later, and generally had a second straight strong game of coverage. He would seem to have earned the Week 6 nickel work, and now we have to wonder how long before it is officially his job to lose. It very well could already be at that point.
There are plenty of players to note, but the final of note for now is Tony Jerod-Eddie. The 49ers defensive lineman came on in the third quarter when Ray McDonald went down with a biceps injury. As the 49ers pushed out their lead and emptied out their bench, they were able to get both TJE and Demarcus Dobbs on the field for extensive playing time. TJE secured an interception when he dropped back on a zone blitz, and he generally looked solid all around. The Texans kept Arian Foster in the game late for some reason, but the upside was it gave TJE a chance to get some work in the run defense against a big time running back.
The 49ers remain a banged up team. This game allowed them to get some reserves in, and try and freshen up some of the rest of the team. We'll see what the coming week brings as we learn a little more about the various injuries. For now though, the 49ers depth is looking fairly solid.