Fooch’s update: Maybe it will happen!
Source on field at Arrowhead Stadium, Malcolm Smith will start at #49ers SAM LB, Reuben Foster at WILL, Fred Warner at MIKE.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) September 23, 2018
The 49ers are finally back to full strength at linebacker as they look to have Fred Warner, Malcolm Smith and Reuben Foster all available when they face the Chiefs. While neither head coach Kyle Shanahan nor defensive coordinator Robert Saleh would admit to planning on all three being on the field at once, Saleh did explain that they always want the best 11 on the field:
We’ll see. That all depends. It’s the same thing, we’re going to dress our best 11 however it fits out. So, it could be whatever. Saying Malcolm is going to be the SAM is not as easy because the SAM is totally different than the MIKE and the WILL and that’s hard. So, we’re going to evaluate everything we can to see how we can get our best 11 on the field and see how it plays out.”
In his press conference on Friday, Shanahan would only admit that they do have a “very clear” picture of what their linebacker alignment would be in Kansas City but he would not share it. It really is what makes most sense, looking at the health of the secondary. The 49ers activated defensive back Tyvis Powell from the practice squad and released linebacker Terence Garvin which could be an indication of Jaquiski Tartt’s health which has been in question all week with a shoulder stinger. Ahkello Witherspoon is nursing an injured ankle and hip and Adrian Colbert isn’t 100% either with a slight hamstring strain.
If the plan is to get the healthiest and best 11 on the field, the 49ers will have to field all three of the linebackers at once for at least a decent portion of their defensive snaps. Both Foster and Warner offer great coverage in the middle with their speed as we’ve seen in previous games. Smith hasn’t played SAM since high school but it may be a necessity, offering a more reliable option than Mark Nzeocha on the outside.