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49ers injury concerns bring up questionable offseason decision

The 49ers are facing some injuries to key players that could impact them over the next few weeks.

The San Francisco 49ers dropped a tough 19-17 game to the Cleveland Browns, acquiring their first loss of the season on Sunday.

It was a game filled with mistakes for the 49ers, but one that also has potential implications for the future, as Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, and Trent Williams all face injuries, with the former two not returning to the game.

Now, reports have surfaced that there’s a chance for one or two, if not all three, to suit up against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football this week, but they're all cautious situations to monitor ahead of the game.

With Samuel and McCaffrey, the 49ers do have solid depth at each position to weather the storm, although the offense was clearly impacted by their injuries on Sunday.

However, in Williams’s case, the 49ers would turn to offensive tackle Jaylon Moore, who has been uninspiring at tackle through the first few seasons of his career.

Should the 49ers have shored up their offensive tackle depth better in the offseason?

Coming into the season, there were a few concerns that I had with the roster, and offensive tackle depth topped the list, even over positions like the nickel cornerback and starting right tackle.

Why? Because Trent Williams himself hasn't played a full season since 2013, missing two, two, and three games over the past three seasons with the 49ers, respectively.

Now, Williams isn't injury-prone, and it’s been only a few games a season, but there is a significant dropoff between Williams and Moore, which not only impacts the offensive line play, but the health of quarterback Brock Purdy as well.

Additionally, “a few games” could be the difference between the No. 1 seed, a divisional spot (and the playoff home game that ensues), and a wildcard.

Especially with losses like the one on Saturday, the 49ers know that every game matters, and playing Moore at left tackle hinders those chances.

If the 49ers were cash-strapped and had a lack of resources in the draft, the choice not to upgrade their depth would make sense, but neither of those issues was true.

There were available options where San Francisco was selecting in the draft, while the 49ers elected to sign Matt Pryor to fill the backup tackle role for cheap.

Williams’s words

After the game, Trent Williams minced on his injury, acknowledging the severe pain that he played through.

“It didn’t feel good at all,” Williams said following the game. “It’s football, and I just tried to fight through it for my teammates. I know they got a Hall of Fame rusher over there in 95 [DE Myles Garrett], and I wanted to get back out there so I could kind of help my team try to contain him. I didn’t want to put [backup 49ers OL] Jaylon [Moore] in that position.”

Given the timing of the season, it would make sense for the 49ers to preserve Williams and ensure his health through the bye week, but it’s clear the offensive tackle is willing to fight through it.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged the battle of playing injured versus pulling players out, trusting his players and the trainers in that situation.

“Oh, that’s always the toughest thing because you never want to do something to put someone at a huge jeopardy to make it worse,” Shanahan said. Well first of all, you’ve got to ask the trainers, but then you go to the player and you’ve got to have a history with the player. You’ve got to kind of know how he is and stuff like that.”

“I truly believe that if Trent couldn’t go, Trent’s not going to go. He’s going to do everything he can to be out there. But Trent’s a very intelligent guy who is also very competitive and understands what those decisions are. He said he could come back, I wasn’t expecting him because of how bad the injury looked. The trainers thought that it wasn’t as serious as it looked. Trent was adamant to get back out there and then we keep our eyes on him all game, which [run game coordinator/offensive line coach] Chris Foerster does a real good job of. So does [assistant offensive line coach James] Cregg and [assistant offensive line coach] Joe [Graves], his assistants.”

“Trent, we thought battled during the game, didn’t show any limps. It was a pretty courageous effort by him coming out and those circumstances, especially the player he was going against.”

The 49ers have a long week ahead in Week 8, as they play on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings.

Hopefully, that provides enough time for the left tackle to recover, but if not, Moore could see his first start of the season, which may be a concern for the 49ers.