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Malcolm Smith listed as doubtful for Week 1 vs. Vikings

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The 49ers will be shorthanded at linebacker to open the season.

The San Francisco 49ers releases their final injury report for Week 1 Friday afternoon, and linebacker Malcolm Smith will be listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said there was a small chance Smith could play, but a doubtful listing suggests it’s highly unlikely. The tag is meant to cover a 25 percent or less chance of playing, so it’s safe to say he won’t play.

The report included a surprise addition, as linebacker Dekoda Watson is out due to a hamstring injury. He was listed as limited on Friday after a normal week, but it was enough to cause the team to rule him out for Sunday. He will not travel with the team to Minneapolis.

Smith’s absence means we will likely see Brock Coyle starting at WILL linebacker, while Fred Warner will start at MIKE. Elijah Lee becomes the primary backup, with SAM linebacker Mark Nzeocha serving as the emergency backup.

Watson had worked into a reserve LEO role, first up behind Cassius Marsh, but likely was an emergency SAM option as well. If Nzeocha were to get hurt, I suspect we would see the team move to even more sub packages since those are already effectively their base defenses. Watson is also a core special teams player, so that will be something to watch on Sunday.

One bit of good news is that Garry Gilliam is off the injury report to close out the week. Shanahan confirmed he is good to go and will serve as the swing tackle.