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Flashback Friday: What would a healthy 49ers starting lineup look like right now?

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The 49ers have been ravaged by injuries. It would certainly be a different team right now if healthy.

The San Francisco 49ers injury reports have been extensive all season long, and with nearly 20 people on injured reserve, we’ve seen numerous iterations of the starting lineup.

The planned starting lineup was off the table before the season got started, when Malcolm Smith tore his pectoral muscle. Free safety Jimmie Ward was out of action early, Reuben Foster missed several games, Zane Beadles was benched, NaVorro Bowman was released, they lost more free safeties, and we’ve seen Tank Carradine and Solomon Thomas both get hurt. And that’s just a few of the most notable events.

I put together a spreadsheet looking at five versions of the 49ers starting lineup. It starts with the projected lineup heading into training camp, skips to Week 1 of the preseason, then Week 1 of the regular season, followed by Week 7, and Week 10. I chose Week 7 because it was one of the few times both Reuben Foster and Solomon Thomas were both in the starting lineup at the same time.

The four game lineups come from NFLGSIS. The 49ers communications department releases a depth chart each week, but it is more of a suggestion that is often off in certain areas. With NFLGSIS, I took the starting lineup fielded on each of those respective games, as considered by the NFL stats department. For Week 7 and Week 10, you’ll see some adjustments because injuries resulted in new looks.

I bring this all up because I find myself wondering what might have been if injuries had not changed things so drastically. Injuries impact every team, but for purposes of considering now and looking to next year, it seems like an interesting hypothetical to consider.

MIKE, WILL

If Malcolm Smith had not gotten hurt, how would the middle and weak side linebacker positions currently look? Would we see Smith and Reuben Foster, with Foster wearing the green dot? That seems the most likely, but we also saw the NaVorro Bowman release mixed in.

Safety

One of the positives to come from the injuries is we got a chance to see Adrian Colbert at free safety. Additionally, prior to his injury, Jaquiski Tartt was shining as a versatile safety option. Both have been a revelation, but what would the situation look like if Jimmie Ward had stayed healthy? We likely would not have seen Eric Reid moved to weak side linebacker, albeit briefly. Would Tartt be filling that Deone Bucannon role as a money backer? Would Colbert be stuck on special teams?

Guard

There are some questions as to whether or not Joshua Garnett would fit into Kyle Shanahan’s offense. If he was healthy, I have to think he would have beaten out Zane Beadles for the left guard spot. The team would not have acquired Laken Tomlinson, and maybe that interior line is looking a little better right now.

Running back

Joe Williams was placed on injured reserve, but was that more of a chance to stash a guy who was disappointing to some extent? If that was not actually the case, it would have made for an interesting dynamic with Matt Breida behind Carlos Hyde. But again, my guess is this was more of a stashing than anything else.

Defensive ends

The 49ers entered camp with considerable depth along the defensive line. However, since the start of camp, they lost Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, and Tank Carradine to injured reserve (Blair has since returned, Tank is expected to be activated this week), and Solomon Thomas to an MCL sprain.

The 49ers will not get Armstead back this season, but Blair, Carradine, and Thomas could all be on the field in Week 12, so you’re looking at a line that is mostly back to full health. The team has some decisions to make between those three and Leger Douzable for who starts and who rotates when along the defensive line.

49ers 2017 lineups through Week 10

Pos. Pre-Training Camp Preseason Week 1 Week 1 Week 7 Week 10
Pos. Pre-Training Camp Preseason Week 1 Week 1 Week 7 Week 10
QB Brian Hoyer Brian Hoyer Brian Hoyer C.J. Beathard C.J. Beathard
RB Carlos Hyde Carlos Hyde Carlos Hyde Carlos Hyde Carlos Hyde
FB Kyle Juszczyk Kyle Juszczyk Kyle Juszczyk Garrett Celek (TE) Kyle Juszczyk
WR Pierre Garçon Pierre Garçon Pierre Garçon Pierre Garçon Louis Murphy
WR Marquise Goodwin Marquise Goodwin Marquise Goodwin Marquise Goodwin Marquise Goodwin
TE Vance McDonald Vance McDonald George Kittle George Kittle Garrett Celek
LT Joe Staley Joe Staley Joe Staley Joe Staley Joe Staley
LG Zane Beadles Zane Beadles Zane Beadles Laken Tomlinson Laken Tomlinson
C Daniel Kilgore Daniel Kilgore Daniel Kilgore Daniel Kilgore Daniel Kilgore
RG Brandon Fusco Brandon Fusco Brandon Fusco Brandon Fusco Brandon Fusco
RT Trent Brown Trent Brown Trent Brown Trent Brown Trent Brown
LDE Arik Armstead Arik Armstead Arik Armstead Leger Douzable Leger Douzable
LDT Earl Mitchell Earl Mitchell Earl Mitchell Earl Mitchell Earl Mitchell
RDT DeForest Buckner DeForest Buckner DeForest Buckner DeForest Buckner DeForest Buckner
RDE Tank Carradine Tank Carradine Tank Carradine Solomon Thomas Ronald Blair
SAM Ahmad Brooks Ahmad Brooks Eli Harold Eric Reid (S) Eli Harold
MIKE NaVorro Bowman NaVorro Bowman NaVorro Bowman Reuben Foster Reuben Foster
WILL Malcolm Smith Reuben Foster Reuben Foster K'Waun Williams (NB) Brock Coyle
CB Rashard Robinson Rashard Robinson Rashard Robinson Rashard Robinson Ahkello Witherspoon
CB Keith Reaser Keith Reaser Dontae Johnson Dontae Johnson Dontae Johnson
FS Jimmie Ward Lorenzo Jerome Eric Reid Jimmie Ward Eric Reid
SS Eric Reid Eric Reid Jaquiski Tartt Jaquiski Tartt Adrian Colbert