The NFL preseason does not have a formal weekly injury report like the regular season, but Thursday, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula provided some details on who will not be traveling with the team. Tomsula ran down a list of ten players who will stay in Santa Clara, as well as one player who will travel but not play, and one who might not play.
The preseason is all about figuring out the depth chart, and seeing which young players might earn a spot at the end of the roster. Injuries are never a good thing, but in the preseason they do open the door for opportunities. Some of these guys are locks to make the roster, while others cannot afford to miss much more action. For now though, I thought I would run down who benefits from each absence:
WR Dres Anderson: Reports had him doing some solid things in training camp before a muscle strain slowed him down over the last week of practices. His roster chances took a big hit with that absence, and barring a huge comeback soon, the team might take their time getting him back and try and slip him to the practice squad. DeAndrew White is the biggest beneficiary, although he seemed to be moving ahead of him even before the injury.
LB Nick Bellore: He is viewed by special teams coach Thomas McGaughey as a potential core special teams option. He can play some inside linebacker, but his role in 2015 would be Blake Costanzo or Kassim Osgood in nature, all special teams. I'm not sure what his illness that has him on the Active/Illness list, but if he can be 100 percent by the end of camp, I think he could still make the roster, even without a single game of preseason action. He also could be a roster cut meant to be brought back after Week 1 when his full salary is no longer guaranteed. Younger players shining on special teams benefit from his absence.
WR Bruce Ellington: A muscle strain has cost him the last week of practice. The biggest beneficiaries at wide receiver would be Quinton Patton, Jerome Simpson and DeAndrew White. The biggest beneficiaries on special teams are Jarryd Hayne and DeAndrew White. Ellington is going to make the roster, but it does allow Hayne and White to get even more playing time at a multitude of positions.
RB Kendall Hunter: He has gotten a lot work in individual drills, but his recovery from a torn ACL has kept him out of team drills. Tomsula has talked about having him on a rep count, and has said he will get in the preseason at some point. Tomsula has been effusive with praise for Hunter, but it is really hard to tell where he stands in the running back competition. His absence means more opportunities for Mike Davis, Kendall Gaskins and Jarryd Hayne.
C Daniel Kilgore: He remains on the PUP list as he rehabs his ankle injury from last season. There is no word on when he will get off the injury list, as GM Trent Baalke said they would assess him over the course of a few weeks to decide what's next. Odds right now seem pretty good he opens the season on the Reserve/PUP list, but we'll find out in a couple weeks. In the meantime, Joe Looney is the biggest beneficiary, moving into the starting lineup at center. Marcus Martin is also getting center reps, but is currently the starting right guard. Ian Silberman has gotten a good number of center reps, and Dillon Farrell was the third string center last year.
OLB Aaron Lynch: He opened training camp on the NFI list, but was removed quickly thereafter. He dealt with back and hamstring injuries this spring, which cut into his conditioning. He has been doing a lot of individual work lately, but no team drills. If I had to guess, I'd predict he joins team drills this coming week, but we'll see. He will make the roster, but in his absence, Corey Lemonier is getting starting snaps opposite Ahmad Brooks. Additionally, Eli Harold, Marcus Rush and new addition Shawn Lemon get more work.
WR DeAndre Smelter: His presence on the NFI list was entirely expected coming off a late 2014 torn ACL. He will likely remain on the NFI list into the season. His absence benefits guys like DeAndrew White and the other young wide receivers, but it has changed nothing at this point.
DB Jimmie Ward: The 2014 first round pick has been doing a lot of individual and conditioning work, but has yet to get back into team drills following a followup surgery on his foot last fall. Tomsula has had praise for his progress, but until he gets back into full team drills, it is hard to not be skeptical about what the foot injury could mean. Tramaine Brock has worked over the slot in Ward's absence, and Dontae Johnson has been the first cornerback off the bench when the team moves into the nickel. The entire cornerback depth chart behind Brock, Johnson and Shareece Wright get extra work in a variety of roles while Ward remains sidelined.
ILB Philip Wheeler/ILB Michael Wilhoite: Wilhoite opened camp on the NFI list with a muscle strain, while Wheeler suffered his muscle strain midway through camp. Their collective absences resulted in the addition of Steve Beauharnais to the roster. Wilhoite's absence moved Nick Moody into the starting lineup opposite NaVorro Bowman. Shayne Skov and Desmond Bishop have both received extra opportunities as well.
The 49ers also have at least a couple players who will potentially not play on Saturday, even though they are healthy and expected to travel with the team. It is likely at least one or two more healthy scratches occur on Saturday, but we'll likely have to wait until Saturday for that.
Reggie Bush: Tomsula said point-blank that Bush will not play, saying he knew exactly what Bush can do. Tomsula did not say if Bush would see preseason time at all, but I have to think they get him into at least Week 2 and 3. As with Hunter, his absence means more snaps for Mike Davis, Jarryd Hayne and Kendall Gaskins. Bush is making the roster, but extra snaps could open up some opportunities for all three of those guys.
NaVorro Bowman: Tomsula said he might play in a small block of plays, but would not commit to anything. Bowman said when he got back on the field, he did not want it to be for two or three plays. That would seem to indicate he will not play this weekend. If he does not, it will be interesting to see who starts next to Nick Moody. It will come down to Shayne Skov and Desmond Bishop, with Steve Beauharnais working behind them. I'm curious if we see the team use some big nickel type packages to get Jaquiski Tartt in there as well. The 49ers are very limited at the position, so the group will get a lot of work on Saturday.