Could 49ers again be derailed by 2020-like injury-plagued season?

Tight end Levine Toilolo #83 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Tight end Levine Toilolo #83 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Through five weeks into 2022, the 49ers have largely been able to navigate yet another injury-plagued campaign, but those injuries are starting to pile up far too much.

The San Francisco 49ers had every opportunity to take a commanding lead in the NFC West by knocking off the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6. And if one was to look solely at each team’s rosters heading into the game, one would have thought the Niners should easily dominate as they did against the Carolina Panthers in Week 5.

Yet the roster and the players available to head coach Kyle Shanahan are two vastly different lists.

San Francisco was already without two key starters on both sides of the ball, All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) and safety Jimmie Ward (hand) while starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley suffered an ACL tear in Week 5. Additionally, Pro Bowl EDGE Nick Bosa had to sit out Sunday’s contest after injuring his groin last week.

And that’s only a small portion of the 49ers’ injury list for Week 6.

Shanahan didn’t make any excuses in the postgame presser following the 49ers’ 28-14 defeat at the hands of the Falcons where injury attrition was a clear factor:

At the same time, though, it’s hard not to pin at least a portion of the result on the Niners simply being so banged up.

After all, San Francisco’s otherwise elite defense was missing six starters at kickoff, and it suffered more key injuries during the game, too.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey exited with a calf injury, while cornerback Charvarius Ward left with a groin injury.

They keep adding up.

49ers are trending toward a 2020-like injury-plagued season

The 49ers haven’t used their injured reserve list quite like they had to back in that forgettable and disastrous 2020 campaign in which they dealt with more injuries than any other team in the league by a wide margin.

Instead, they’re currently teetering on the line between being able to mitigate those setbacks and falling off the proverbial “cliff” altogether, not totally unlike what happened a year ago when the Niners still managed to make it to the NFC Championship game despite yet another rash of serious setbacks.

McGlinchey and Williams both out at tackle. Ward and Moseley out at cornerback. Only Samson Ebukam is listed as the sole healthy starter on the defensive line, while Bosa, Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw are unavailable.

Jimmie Ward is still out while running back Elijah Mitchell has been out since Week 1.

And then there’s quarterback Trey Lance, too, although, San Francisco arguably saved its season by ultimately deciding to retain the veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo missing the bulk of 2020 ultimately derailed that year, as did a slew of other massive setbacks.

However, the 2022 49ers are trending dangerously toward that kind of season.

Good injury news for 49ers on the horizon?

The Niners have only a handful of players who are truly on season-ending injured reserve, and they’ll be anticipating the return of names like Kinlaw, Mitchell and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.

Meanwhile, Williams is poised to return soon, which will help anchor a makeshift offensive line.

Further bolstering the defense, Bosa was probably close to playing in Week 6 before being ruled out, and San Francisco is eagerly hoping veteran cornerback Jason Verrett can be activated soon off the physically unable-to-perform list after starting off the year there in the wake of last season’s ACL tear.

If there’s a difference between 2020 and the current edition of 49ers injuries, it’s that. The Niners haven’t suffered too many drastic season-ending injuries yet, and reinforcements should be returning soon.

They’ll need to make a difference, though, and San Francisco needs to avoid more setbacks.

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