The San Francisco 49ers placed cornerback Chris Davis on injured reserve Monday morning, following a torn ACL this past Thursday. The team signed cornerback JaCorey Shepherd to fill his spot on the roster.
Chip Kelly was a fan of Shepherd back in Philadelphia, and was likely going to start him at nickel back last season before a torn ACL ended Shepherd’s season. I don’t expect Shepherd to jump right in as the 49ers nickel back, but it will be interesting to see how his reps develop in practice over the next few weeks.
That being said, rookie Will Redmond might be the player to watch in the next few weeks. The 49ers placed Redmond on injured reserve on September 5. He had spent the year recovering from a torn ACL and his recovery kept him from being a full participant for much of the offseason. He got into the final two preseason games, and was on the roster after final roster cuts, but then placed him on IR the following Monday.
When the move happened on September 5, the timing popped up on my radar. Each team is allowed to return one player to action that was placed on on injured reserve. If the 49ers had placed Redmond on IR with final roster cuts the Saturday before, he would have been ineligible to return to the team this season. By waiting until that Monday, he became eligible to return under this recent rule change.
This is timely now because of the timeline surrounding the rule. A player on injured reserve can return to practice no earlier than after six weeks on IR. The 49ers would be allowed to return him to practice next week, heading into Week 7. The player is then eligible to return to game action after spending at least eight weeks on injured reserve. That means, the 49ers could return him to practice next week without taking up a spot on the 53-man roster, and then could return him to game action two weeks later when they face the New Orleans Saints in Week 9.
There is no guarantee anything like this will happen. And Keith Reaser could be the guy who secures the role the rest of the season. But the opportunity is there. Redmond was drafted to be a nickel back, and if he can return from IR, there is a spot he could claim. I would not expect him to become the nickel back immediately, but with two weeks of practice to get back up to speed (he has been participating in meetings, just not on-field practice), who’s to say he doesn’t end up starting at nickel back before the end of the season?