With the 49ers set to take on the Houston Texans, I’m going to go on a quick rundown of who is going to be able to suit up and who will miss today’s contest due to injury. You might as well start with the most crucial position of them all.
Jimmy Garoppolo - Officially listed as DOUBTFUL
It was always a long shot that Garoppolo would be able to go just ten days after tearing his UCL, but his optimistic tone surrounding his availability and the reluctance to rule him out has left the door open all week for him to play. Per Adam Schefter, Garoppolo is not expected to suit up vs. the Texans, but the 49ers remain optimistic he will have a chance to play in week 18 when the 49ers head to Los Angeles to take on the Rams in the season finale.
This opens the door for 49ers fans to get a glimpse of the future, as Trey Lance is now in a position to make his second career NFL start. Players and coaches alike have raved about how impressed they have been with the #3 overall pick as the season has progressed, as a finger injury that gave Lance some problems earlier in the season (including his first career start in Arizona) appears to have healed up and is no longer an issue.
Elijah Mitchell - Officially listed as QUESTIONABLE
After suffering a knee injury in the 49ers' week 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Mitchell has missed the last three games. However, all things point to Mitchell suiting up this week as he looks to build on his impressive rookie season and give an already potent 49ers rushing attack an added boost with his return. This season, the first-year running back has four 100 yard rushing games, which leads all rookie running backs.
His 4.6 yards per carry average is impressive, but perhaps the most admirable quality that Mitchell has displayed has been his ability to carry a heavy load on offense. In the 49ers' week 12 win over the Vikings, Mitchell recorded more touches on offense (32) than any other 49ers player had since Frank Gore had 32 against the Lions in December of 2009.
Mitchell has logged double-digit touches in eight of the nine games he has played and has recorded at least 18 in seven of nine. He has been the closest thing we have seen to a bell-cow back since Kyle Shanahan has been the head coach.
Talanoa Hufanga - Officially listed as DOUBTFUL
Hufanga was not able to practice all week, still sidelined by a knee injury that he suffered in the second quarter of the 49ers' victory against the Atlanta Falcons. However, the fifth-year rookie has seen a significant amount of snaps this season, and I would guess that Tavon Wilson steps in and fills the role that normally would have gone to Hufanga this week.
In recent weeks, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt playing at an extremely high level certainly help soften the blow of being without Hufanga, who has had a handful of big-time plays for the 49ers defense in his first year in the NFL.
Azeez Al-Shaair & Dre Greenlaw - Both officially listed as OUT
Al-Shaair was held out of practice all week with a knee injury, which made it a long shot that he would be able to suit up for this game. Al-Shaair leaves some big shoes to be filed, as he has been one of the better players on the 49ers' defense this season. The hope is that this injury won't keep Al-Shaair out long, as he should be good to go by wild card weekend should the 49ers secure a playoff birth.
Greenlaw was able to participate in a limited practice on Thursday but will ultimately miss his fifth consecutive game after re-aggravating a groin injury that forced him to miss 10 games earlier in the season. The limited practice is encouraging for a potential return in the near future, but the 49ers will need to find a way to compensate for the lack of Greenlaw’s sideline to sideline speed in the meantime. Again, a tall ask for an already depleted linebacking room.
DJ Jones - Officially OFF the injury report
I thought I’d end this article/update with some positive news. After leaving the 49ers' week 16 game in Tennessee with an ankle injury, Jones was a limited participant in Wednesday and Thursday’s practice before logging a full practice on Friday. After that, Jones was taken off the injury report, which is a very welcoming sight for a banged-up 49ers defense.
Jones has been one of the most integral parts of the 49ers' defense for a few seasons now, a player whose contributions often seem overshadowed because they do not always appear on the box score. His presence up the middle gives this unit a huge boost as they look to handle business at home against the Texans and put themselves in a position to secure just their second playoff berth in the last eight seasons.