Categories: Sports

With injuries to McGlinchey, Juszczyk, 49ers run game adjusts

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Kyle Shanahan wasn’t worried about Mike McGlinchey when he saw the former first-round pick limp back to the huddle on Monday night.

Because of McGlinchey’s spotless injury history — he hadn’t missed a game in college or through just over a year in the NFL — the 49ers head coach was confident that his right tackle would be fine after being rolled up on late in the second half against the Cleveland Browns. “I remember him saying that he didn’t want to come out because he didn’t think he was that hurt,” Shanahan said.

McGlinchey didn’t take himself out of the game, and didn’t think he was hurt even afterwards. On Wednesday, though, Shanahan announced that McGlinchey would undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this week, and miss 4-6 weeks, leaving the 49ers without another integral part of their run game after losing fullback Kyle Juszczyk to a knee sprain Monday night.

“When you lose real good players — both of your tackles and your fullback — you always have to make adjustments,” Shanahan said. “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel either.”

Even having lost All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley to a broken fibula in Week 2 against the Bengals, San Francisco still leads the NFL in rushing yards per game (200) and is third in rushing attempts per game (38.5).

Rookie tackle Justin Skule has stepped in for Staley — giving up no sacks and helping spring Matt Breida for an 83-yard touchdown on Monday — and Shanahan expects second-year offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill to step in for McGlinchey, who will miss at least four games, starting this Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

“I didn’t know much about (Brunskill) until he got here in OTAs and training camp,” Shanahan said. “But got to see him then and I became a believer in him. He was ‘No. 61’ for a while for me, but he became ‘Brunskill,’ because he was low on the radar as it started out, but he earned his spot on this team.”

According to Shanahan, the 49ers will be exploring any and all trade options to find an additional tackle to put on their roster. He was asked about Washington Redskins tackle Trent Williams, who is not with the team right now due to a contract dispute. Williams has reportedly been made unavailable for trade, which Shanahan confirmed.

“We’re not allowed to talk about that,” he said. “I mean, I think we hear the same things you guys are hearing. It doesn’t look like there’s much movement there.”

Trotting out two backup offensive tackles is bad enough for the 49ers, especially against the reigning NFC champion Rams, but playing without Juszczyk — who suffered a sprained MCL early in the second half against Cleveland — exacerbates the situation.

The next man up behind Juszczyk — the only fullback on the roster — is tight end Ross Dwelley. Beyond that, George Kittle could also serve as Juszczyk-like role.

“It’s not necessarily all the exact same, but that is what most teams do,” Shanahan said. “Not many teams have a fullback on their roster, but you motion a tight end back there and he is a fullback. We will do that or motion one of our receivers back there to play fullback.”

Juszczyk, who joined the 49ers in 2016 when Shanahan was hired as head coach, has redefined the importance of the fullback position over the last three seasons but more importantly, his versatility has proven to be invaluable for San Francisco’s offense.

“He plays every position,” Breida told The Examiner. “He’s smart. He can probably play quarterback if need be. He’s just that good.”

Just Juszczyk’s presence in a formation has made a difference for the 49ers. On Breida’s 83-yard run, it was Juszczyk’s motion in the backfield that drew Browns’ linebacker Mack Wilson out of the B-gap to open a 10-foot-wide hole for Breida to sprint through untouched.

“Yeah, it’ll be different [without Juszczyk],” starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “But, you know, the coaches, they’ve been working hard getting the game plan ready. We’ve got to go out there and execute it, so whatever it is, it is.”

Facing one of the most stout defensive lines in the NFL on Sunday in Los Angeles will be difficult enough. Now without two of their most important pieces to that area of their game, it’s up to Shanahan to find a way to bridge the gap, as San Francisco looks to go 5-0 for the first time since 1990.

“No matter who’s run the ball, they try to get more yards than what’s blocked for,” Shanahan said. “It starts with the effort of the whole team and when you have effort, usually good things happen.”

C.J. Peterson

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C.J. Peterson
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