With one preseason game under their belts, the San Francisco 49ers have their attention towards the Houston Texans, as they are set to take part in joint practices and a preseason game this week in Texas. Sunday was the 49ers’ first practice since their win, giving us much needed updates on injuries and another chance to see who helped their case for a roster spot — and who did not.
49ers’ injury gods
Against the Cowboys, the 49ers’ trainers spent more time on the field than the starters. In the first quarter alone, RB Matt Breida, LB Malcolm Smith, TE George Kittle, DL Solomon Thomas and OL Garry Gilliam all fell to injury.
Breida and Kittle’s shoulder injuries weren’t serious and the 49ers expect the duo to be back for Week 1 against Minnesota. Thomas and Gilliam had concussion-like symptoms, keeping them out of practice on Sunday, but they should return soon.
RB Jerick McKinnon had a knee injury during Sunday’s practice, leading to an MRI. The team announced it is a calf strain that will keep him out this week, and he will be re-evaluated next week. San Francisco should be thanking the injury gods, as they continue to dodge major injury bullets to key pieces on both sides of the ball. Luckily, these players are only missing preseason time and it won’t roll over into the regular season.
RBs Raheem Mostert and Jeremy McNichols
With RBs Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida out with various ailments and Joe Williams missing Sunday’s practice due to personal reasons, it created opportunities for the other running backs on the roster.
Mostert and McNichols took advantage of their extra snaps on Sunday, with the former breaking off two huge runs during drills. While it’s likely an uphill battle for either to make the 53-man roster, they can certainly start to show off their abilities for a potential practice squad spot or a place on a different team’s roster.
CB Richard Sherman
When news released that Sherman was facing a hamstring injury that could threaten his preseason playing time, 49ers’ fans became worried that the veteran corner could struggle early in the season.
During Sunday’s practice, 49ers’ team reporter Joe Fann added that Sherman returned to participate in individual drills. This could easily mean that Sherman can see the field for full 11-on-11 drills later in the week.
Sherman likely won’t suit up against the Texans, but there’s a chance that he’s back for the third preseason game against the Colts. At least the ex-Seahawk will get some real, meaningful reps before Week 1 in Minnesota.
LB Fred Warner
No time is more important for a rookie than training camp and preseason. It gives the young player some meaningful snaps to help acclimate them to the speed of the game and the playbook.
With linebacker Reuben Foster out the first two weeks of the season, former BYU LB Fred Warner was expected to step in and try to fill those big shoes. Unfortunately, Warner has been facing a nagging chest injury that is keeping him out of all contact activities.
After Sunday’s practice, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh added that, “I believe he’s got a chest contusion. From my understanding it’s just a very nagging injury that needs to heal.”
If you know anything about linebacking, you know that contact and tackling is 50 percent of the position. With the 49ers’ third-round pick still missing time, he’s already behind the eight-ball early in his rookie season.
49ers’ red-zone offense
On Sunday, the defense was the clear victor in the red-zone period, dominating the better half of their team. DB Ahkello Witherspoon and LB Reuben Foster came up with huge pass breakups, not letting the offense off the hook.
One of the areas of emphasis for the 49ers coming into 2018 was the team’s execution within the 20-yard line. It seems like Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense will need to keep turning the crank on their red-zone play-calling.