How will the 49ers offense re-integrate their injured players?
Forgotten amid the Niners incredible season has been the rash of injuries that plagued the offense. Not many teams can overcome the loss of both starting tackles, let alone both tackles and their primary catalyst in the run game.
Now, with an essentially mini-bye week, the Niners will have at least tackle Joe Staley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk back for the game against the Seahawks. While both players are clearly more talented than their alternatives, re-integrating them will be an interesting wrinkle to the game.
Staley will, without question, take his left tackle spot from his fill-in, Justin Skule. That’s not an issue. The issue comes with what happens at the right tackle position.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said, following the win against the Carolina Panthers, he’d expect Mike McGlinchey to return to action against the Seahawks, although he wasn’t nearly as confident as he was about Staley.
If McGlinchey can return, the issue is solved. If he can’t, the 49ers have a decision to make. Daniel Brunskill has played very well at that right tackle position, pleasantly surprising everyone.
Skule, who would be displaced with Staley’s return, has played well at the left tackle position, notoriously harder for a player.
The Niners could either shift Skule over to right tackle or keep Brunskill. Making that shift, however, could cause some issues on the offensive line, and the payoff isn’t clear.
The addition of Juszczyk will have no concerns in that regard. Tight end Ross Dwelley admirably filled in whenever he could, but Juszczyk is clearly a superior run blocker. Adding Juszczyk will only force coach Shanahan to mix up formations, since Dwelley has shown the ability to contribute. The 49ers could come out in 22 formation more than usual with the addition of Kyle, and they could chip more on the offensive line.
How the 49ers manage to assimilate their returning players will be critical to their success on Monday.