Talanoa Hufanga appears to be out for the season with an ACL injury. What can the 49ers do to replace his spot on the roster if he's indeed done?
While the San Francisco 49ers won their Week 11 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, it was not a victory without casualties.
All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga left the game late in the third quarter after attempting to tackle Tampa Bay running back Rachaad White on a pass out of the backfield by quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The play looked rough for Hufanga when it happened, as his ankles appeared to buckle underneath him, leading to a long stay in the blue medical tent before being carted back to the Niners' locker room.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned during his postgame press conference that the injury was "most likely" a torn ACL but he couldn't "confirm it." Hufanga received further testing on Monday that ultimately confirmed the injury, but given the amount of time he was in the tent and the accuracy of the on-field tests, subsequent evaluation seemed likely merely a formality for confirmation.
The question becomes, then, what will San Francisco do to fill Hufanga's roster spot once he's officially placed on IR?
Rookie Ji'Ayir Brown was the next man up on Sunday and had an impact on the game after initially giving up a long completion to Bucs wideout Rakim Jarrett on his first defensive play. Brown ended the game with four tackles, three passes defended (including a key fourth-down pass breakup with the Bucs threatening to make it a one-score game), and the game-sealing interception in the end zone.
So, the question isn't who will step into Hufanga's starting role, because Brown will likely be allowed to continue to grow into that position as the season goes on, but who will step in as the team's fourth safety after Brown, Tashaun Gipson, and special teams ace George Odum?