At a Saturday practice, San Francisco 49ers players Malcolm Smith and Joshua Garnett went down with reportedly serious chest and knee injuries, respectively.
At an open practice with tens of thousands of fans in attendance, the San Francisco 49ers lost two starters for what looks to be an extended period of time. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco reports that the 49ers are “fearing” dire injuries to both the starting linebacker and guard.
If they do miss regular season action, the 49ers aren’t exactly screwed, but they’re not in a good place either. Smith figured to be the starting weakside linebacker in the 49ers’ new 4-3 defense. Without him, the job will either go to veteran Ray-Ray Armstrong or rookie Reuben Foster.
Armstrong played surprisingly well when he did play last season, but he only played two games before a season-ending pectoral injury. There hasn’t been much news about how Armstrong has performed so far in training camp, so one has to wonder if those two games were an anomaly for a historically erratic player, both on and off the field.
One player who has made a lot of noise during the 49ers’ training camp is currently behind Armstrong on the depth chart, but that could change quickly. Reuben Foster, the 49ers second first-round pick of the 2017 draft, has had no shortage of splash plays, snagging four interceptions so far and drawing positive reviews from general manager John Lynch. The 49ers probably wanted to ease Foster into a starting role as the season progressed, but they may not have that luxury anymore.
The loss of Joshua Garnett is trickier. The Niners have no shortage of bodies along the offensive line, but many are journeymen who have been mediocre or worse for a long time. It’s not as if Garnett was good last season (because he wasn’t), but he has the potential for significant growth, something you can’t say about many others along the line.
Zane Beadles would likely start at left guard for the second consecutive season if Garnett is indeed out. He was just as bad as if not worse than Garnett last season, but he doesn’t have Father Time on his side. Veteran Brandon Fusco is also in the mix to start at either guard spot. Though not pretty, the 49ers starting offensive line will likely consist of Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Jeremy Zuttah, Brandon Fusco, and Trent Brown.
These two injuries don’t spell the end of the world, but for a team that already has one of the worst rosters in football, two injuries to starters, no matter who they are, is significant.