At the start of practice on Thursday, the 49ers announced that recently-signed receiver Tavon Austin is heading to the injury reserve just a few weeks after the former Dallas Cowboy and Los Angeles Ram joined the team.
It doesn't stop for SF: #49ers have placed WR Tavon Austin on IR with a knee injury, ending his season.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 3, 2020
While the 49ers are hopeful to have Samuel and 2020 NFL first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk back for the Week 1 contest against the Arizona Cardinals, but it seems like everytime the 49ers get good news about a receiver, James as an example, it’s immediately met by another injury or issue.
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Since being selected by the then-St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Austin has been a player to watch, albeit his production over his career probably doesn’t match being the eighth overall pick of that NFL Draft.
Austin impressed in his rookie year, racking up 418 yards as well as catching four touchdowns in his first year in the league, and eventually walked out of the Rams with 1,133 yards over three seasons and nine receiving touchdowns.
However, Austin’s specialty of returning already began to make its mark, housing a punt return each of his first three seasons.
Since, the former West Virginia Mountaineer hasn’t found the endzone, but remained a consistent option for the Rams and the Cowboys as a punt returner who can also be used as a kick returner when needed.
Austin never received a start while in Dallas, but did bring down 317 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while also proving to be an effective rushing option when given the chance, rushing for 112 yards on just 12 attempts over the two seasons as a Cowboy.
49ers Going Forward
The silver lining of the 49ers losing Austin for the season is the fact that the receiver was fighting for a spot on the final roster, not for a starting position.
That isn’t to say that Austin couldn’t have offered something to the 49ers this season. With a plethora of experience as a receiver and returner, Austin was vying for that spot to try and edge out James, who know looks to be a lock for a roster spot considering he offers a similar skillset to Austin.
The 49ers will likely be fine at the wide receiver position, but there is reason for concern. If there are recovery hiccups with Samuel’s jones fracture as there was with Trent Taylor and the same injury last year, the situation immediately becomes dicier.
This isn’t to mention that if Aiyuk’s injury continues to aggravate him or slow him down for the start of the season, the 49ers will become extra-dependent on Kendrick Bourne and George Kittle to pick up the slack for the start of the 2020 season.
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.