When asked last week, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said he’d be surprised if the pair would be out for Week 1.
It appears that Shanahan wasn’t off base, as San Francisco’s pair of edge rushers, Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, returned to practice on Monday, ahead of the 49ers’ opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
Not participating at start of #49ers practice:
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) September 7, 2020
With the 49ers dealing with somewhat of an injury crisis over the past offseason, the recent news that Richie James Jr. and Deebo Samuel have been activated to the main roster plus the update that Bosa and Ford are out practicing is a certain boost ahead of the start of the season.
Bosa and Ford
While the 49ers boast a defense that is comprehensively excellent from the first man to the last, it cannot be understated exactly how important Ford and Bosa are to the success of the San Francisco defense.
While Ford had a limited 2019 due to injury, the 6.5 sacks in 11 appearances provides a good sign for what the former Kansas City Chief can do with a full season, which is also evidenced by the two 10+ sack seasons he totaled while a Chief.
Bosa provided the more immediate impact in his first year with the 49ers, hitting 9 regular season sacks and adding four more in three games in the playoffs.
Considering that the 49ers opening opposing quarterback is one of the NFL’s most elusive in the form of Kyler Murray, putting pressure on the second-year quarterback will be one of the key objectives for the 49ers.
Richard Sherman and the San Francisco secondary are really good, but if Murray is given breathing room to hit new target DeAndre Hopkins, it simply doesn’t matter how good the 49ers’ corners are, the Cardinals will find success in the passing game.
Aiyuk and Samuel
While the 49ers did get the encouraging news for a defensive duo, the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 receivers are still on the sidelines. While Samuel’s activation this past weekend is a good sign going forward, it’s no guarantee that the team will have the second-year receiver lining up by Sunday.
Speaking to 49ers media members this past Sunday after the release of the team’s 53-man roster and practice squad, Lynch explained that San Francisco is optimistic, but it’s a waiting game.
“Hopeful,” Lynch said. “They’re out here as we speak training and working really hard. I think on Wednesday, the first injury report comes. But those guys are all working and have a chance, so we’ll see where it goes.”
While it would still be preferable to have both Aiyuk and Samuel, their lack of practice and lack of detail from Lynch likely means that even if they suit up, the 49ers won’t have either of their top receivers at 100 percent health.
The team may decide to play it safe and ensure the pair’s long-term health for the season, and if that’s the case, expect Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor and James to carry the workload from a wide receiver perspective.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the NFL for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.