The San Francisco 49ers are getting a few reinforcements back for their pivotal Week 14 matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Joe Staley, Dee Ford, and Matt Breida are all set to return as they’ve practiced all week. There was some doubt that cornerback Richard Sherman wouldn’t suit up after being hobbled postgame against the Ravens, but he’s practiced all week as well and will be out on the field Sunday.
NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco reported that starting safety Jaquiski Tartt will not be available for Sunday’s game. Jullian Taylor and Dante Pettis will also likely miss. The offense hasn’t relied on Pettis all season, and Taylor’s snaps can be replaced considering D.J. Jones is healthy.
Tartt’s loss could be a big one, however. You have to imagine the coaching staff has been preparing all week to play without him, but it will still be challenging to replace Tartt’s versatility. With him and Jimmie Ward essentially being interchangeable all season, that’s allowed the 49ers defense to do more in coverage. Marcell Harris did a fine job replacing Tartt in the second half against the Ravens game. Harris was essentially a linebacker against Baltimore, though. He would be tested in coverage against the Saints, who rely heavily on shorter throws but will stress the defense horizontally.
Shanahan was on KNBR Friday morning, providing a few injury updates. Here’s what he had to say about Tartt:
“Tartt, he’s got the fractured ribs, so anytime you have that, it’s extremely painful, hard to breathe,” Shanahan said. “They say it is a pain tolerance, which people are like, ‘Oh, are they not tough enough to go out (there)? This is pain.’ Trust me; it’s more pain than people can realize. You barely can breathe. That stuff, you are day-to-day with it. You don’t know how long it’s going to last. I’d be surprised if Tartt plays. He’ll end up getting, most likely, a ‘doubtful’ tag today when we end up doing it. But hopefully, he’ll get back here in the next couple of weeks. It’s similar to what Emmanuel (Sanders) had a few weeks ago, but Marcell (Harris) stepped up and did great. Expecting him to get that opportunity again on Sunday, and we’re expecting him to not only go in there and play well but to even play better.”
A couple of weeks doesn’t sound good. Luckily, more than ever, the 49ers have pieces on defense where you can buy time if you miss a starter. That’s the luxury of having depth.
If Harris can be the bulldozer he was last week taking on blocks and freeing up the linebackers, I have no reason to think the 49ers will struggle to stop the Saints. Something to keep an eye on will be if we see any other defensive backs rotate in if the Saints open it up and spread out San Francisco in the passing game. The coaching staff has been great at adjusting to different looks this season.
The team almost played Ford last week, per Shanahan:
“We were tempted to put him in last week just because he was close,” Shanahan said. “But any time you’ve got a hamstring (injury), it’s way too risky. It was hard to keep him out last week, but he’s looked good in practice this week. We still have one more (practice) today, so hopefully, he’ll go out there today and continue that. If he does, he looks on track to play, and I’m expecting him to have a big game.”
Pressuring Brees with four rushers is the best way to alleviate the loss of Tartt.
Here’s the injury report:
Out: S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), DT Jullian Taylor (elbow)
Questionable: WR Marquise Goodwin (knee, foot), WR Dante Pettis (knee), T Joe Staley (finger)
Everyone else that has been on the injury report this week was a full participant in practice today.