49ers backup depth is a secret strength no one is talking about

Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway #98 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway #98 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers have already been beset by injuries, yet the accumulation of key reserves and depth pieces have helped the Niners stay the course.

After a little more than a month into the 2022 season, the San Francisco 49ers have had quite a precarious start, especially with regard to injuries to key players.

Fortunately for the organization, the top brass has assembled a great roster equipped with the depth needed to overcome those setbacks.

San Francisco has had some of the worst luck in recent league history when it comes to player injuries. The avalanche of rotating players began in 2018 when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an ACL tear. Since then, San Francisco has averaged almost 10-plus players each year finishing their season on injured reserve.

In an effort to combat what seems to be a cruel curse, the Niners revamped their entire training and medical staff in 2018 and completely altered their approach to signing or drafting incoming players with less injury history. Instead of targeting the typical, expensive, big-name players on the market, they modified the mentality from chasing playmakers to durability, electing to go with guys who have been on the field for 70 percent or more of games for the season.

Overall team health is one of the main factors that has prevented San Francisco from reaching its full potential, but this season might be different.

The 49ers already weathered the season-ending injury to quarterback Trey Lance, their presumed starter, and that was done by retaining Garoppolo despite it being viewed as an odd decision at the time.

San Francisco’s quarterback room is that much stronger.

49ers getting outstanding production from depth pieces

No one could have anticipated such an early exit for Lance, but thanks in large part to the 49ers’ patience with Garoppolo’s situation, they just may have saved their season. Despite the recent rash of injuries, Niners top brass knew they had a Super Bowl-contending roster that’s ready to win now and they’re extremely confident in their team because of how well they positioned themselves with solid contributors across the board.

When you look at positions like running back and realize San Francisco lost its presumed workhorse, Elijah Mitchell, for some time because of an MCL sprain in Week 1, it may surprise you to know production hasn’t dipped in his absence.

Thank Jeff Wilson Jr. for that.

Same can be said about the tight end position as well. Anytime a dynamic player like George Kittle goes down for any period during the season, all would seem lost but again, San Francisco is covered in that department with solid reserves in Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner.

Additionally, there aren’t too many “splash-name” offensive linemen who can fill the void by All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, who is out with a high-ankle sprain, but there are a bunch of blue-collar linemen who have filled in adequately enough to avoid Williams’ absence from making a huge negative impact.

On the defensive side of the ball, it’s pretty much the same song. Defensive linemen Javon Kinlaw (knee) and Arik Armstead (foot) went down with injuries, yet waiting in the wing is another solid pair of linemen, Kevin Givens and Hassan Ridgeway.

Even losing linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (ankle) can’t derail defensive momentum since the Niners have been able to plug in reservists like Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Oren Burks.

The one area that may be an immediate cause of concern is the the No. 2 cornerback spot, though.

After suffering a season-ending ACL tear, Emmanuel Moseley will now have to wait until next year before returning to the field. The 49ers still have a very capable and solid backup in Jason Verrett, but he, too, is coming off a significant knee injury that’ll require additional recovery time before taking any live snaps.

Based on how well the depth has performed up to this point, though, one might figure Moseley’s absence won’t create too big a problem.

All in all, the Niners put themselves in a great position and should be able to weather the storm long enough to still have a successful season.

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