One Niners’ Defensive Unit Dangerously Thin as Week 2 Nears

Javon Kinlaw

Getty Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw #99 and defensive end Kerry Hyder #92 of the San Francisco 49ers take the field during the NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium on December 7, 2020, in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers left the practice field Wednesday, September 15 with only two defensive tackles in pads, just four days out from a Week 2 showdown with what appears to be a formidable Philadelphia Eagles offense.

A primary injury focus across the defensive line leading into Sunday’s matchup is starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and his nagging knee injury.

“It still hasn’t healed quite as right as we want,” Shanahan told reporters Wednesday from a West Virginia practice field, where San Francisco is temporarily camped amid a two-game road stretch to open the season.

Kinlaw on Thursday was listed as questionable for the game against the Eagles, while Maurice Hurst has been relegated to the injured reserve list (IR).

Defensive tackles DJ Jones, Kentavius Street, Kevin Givens and Zach Kerr are the remaining players listed on the roster who are not also currently designated with an injury of some sort, according to ESPN.

Injuries Proving Problematic Across Niners Defensive Line

GETTYArik Armstead, of the San Francisco 49ers, reacts to a sack in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game at Levi’s Stadium on January 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, California.

It is not just defensive tackle that is a problem for the Niners but defensive end, specifically on the left side of the line.

Matt Barrows, Niners reporter for The Athletic, listed the notable absences from practice on Wednesday across the entire defense.

“Did not practice: DE Arik Armstead (abductor), LB Dre Greenlaw (groin), DT Javon Kinlaw (knee) CB Emmanuel Moseley (knee),” Barrows tweeted. “Limited: DE Dee Ford (ankle), LB Marcell Harris (oblique).”

Along with Armstead, Ford remains listed as questionable on the team’s official depth chart. The third left defensive end on the roster, Jordan Willis, is currently serving a suspension.

Injury Issues in Defensive Backfield Have led to Multiple Signings

Dre Kirkpatrick

GettyDre Kirkpatrick celebrates a big play in 2020 with the Cardinals.

Moseley remains out and the Niners coaching staff remains “hopeful” of the cornerback’s eventual return. However, no timetable has been given and Moseley is not expected to take the field on Sunday.

San Francisco’s other starting cornerback, Jason Verrett, was lost for the season during the 4th quarter of the Niners’ opening victory over the Detroit Lions last Sunday. In his place, the team has signed veteran defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick.

Though he has never made a Pro Bowl, Kirkpatrick has started a total of 78 games during eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and one campaign with the Arizona Cardinals.

Over the span of his NFL tenure, the newest Niner has snagged 13 interceptions, defended 72 passes and scampered into the end zone for 2 defensive touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. Kirkpatrick has also sacked the quarterback 3 times, recovered 3 fumbles and forced another.

San Francisco also recently signed former All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, another nine-year veteran who is likely to see real time as a member of the Niners’ defense. He was not elevated to the active roster for last Sunday’s season opener in Detroit, though Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan said Norman was ready to play if necessary.

“He was definitely ready to go,” Shanahan told reporters after the game. “Josh actually told us if we tell him today that he’s up, he’ll be ready to go. So Josh has been a soldier all week, and I’m real excited to have him here. And I know he was ready this week, so I expect him to be ready next week also.”

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