The 49ers lost Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams to a shoulder injury during the Week 4 loss to the Seahawks. And the Niners better hope it’s not serious.
In shades of what happened in 2020, the San Francisco 49ers are again facing a context where a sizable chunk of their roster is lost to injuries over any given week.
Back in Week 1, running back Raheem Mostert and cornerback Jason Verrett, two vital pieces to the team’s chances this year, suffered season-ending injuries. There have also been other setbacks in the following two weeks, too.
There’s a good chance fans will focus on the calf injury suffered by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, which opened up the door for rookie Trey Lance to play out the entirety of the second half. There could be some long-term ramifications there, depending on the severity of Garoppolo’s injury and whether or not he’ll be able to play in Week 5.
But one could argue the potentially bigger setback was losing Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who first exited the game on a cart after dealing with some cramps, then returned, and then had to exit again after dealing with a shoulder injury.
Williams didn’t return to the game after going out the second time.
49ers aren’t sure of the severity of Trent Williams’ injury
Williams was visibly shaken when he left the field for good. One can hope the injury is nothing more than a stinger, or at least something not long term. But head coach Kyle Shanahan wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Williams’ prognosis, telling reporters the following after the game:
"I’m concerned for Trent to leave with a shoulder injury and not return. I hope it’s all right, but that’s all I know about it."
Williams played 14 of San Francisco’s 16 games last year, only missing two after being placed on the reserve/COVID list in 2020. So far to date, the 49ers have enjoyed a relatively clean slate of health with its offensive line, and all five starters have made each one of the Niners’ four games played so far.
If that changes, though, it could be awfully problematic.
49ers don’t have a proven backup to Trent Williams
Throughout training camp and into the preseason, it was notably apparent San Francisco’s B-team O-line was pretty horrid, both in terms of run blocking and pass protection. If the 49ers starters up front remained healthy, there’d be nothing to worry about.
The Niners already lost swing tackles Justin Skule and Shon Coleman to injuries, and it’s likely Shanahan would have turned to Skule at left tackle. Even better, had the Niners’ second-round NFL Draft pick from this year, Aaron Banks, secured the starting right guard spot, now-starting guard Daniel Brunskill would have been in his primary reserve role.
And it would be Brunskill filling in at left tackle, a job he did admirably during San Francisco’s Super Bowl run in 2019.
Those options aren’t available now, though, unless Shanahan is comfortable with Banks now playing at right guard. For what it’s worth, Banks has been inactive all four games into 2021.
So, that means fellow rookie lineman Jaylon Moore, who entered the game in place of Williams, effectively becomes the new left tackle.
Moore, too, struggled during preseason, earning a Pro Football Focus exhibition grade of 48.6 in the pass-blocking department.
Not particularly promising for Lance or Garoppolo, depending on who ends up starting with regards to that injury situation.
Either way, the 49ers O-line depth was considered a major weakness heading into the regular season, and Williams’ potential injury issues could magnify what’s been a frustrating season already.
Hopefully, for both Williams’ case and that of the Niners, it’s nothing overly serious. San Francisco can’t afford yet another key setback like this one.