Elijah Mitchell will be asked to step up with San Francisco 49ers star Raheem Mostert out. (AP … [+] Photo/Lon Horwedel)


The San Francisco 49ers are in somewhat of a similar situation as they were heading into Week 4 of the 2020 NFL season against the Philadelphia Eagles.

San Francisco boasted a 2-1 record and was coming off a high-scoring win against a fellow opponent on the east coast. As injuries mounted heading into that game, Nick Mullens was forced to start over Jimmy Garoppolo.

It was Mullens who pretty much handed the game to Philadelphia with a pick-six late in the fourth quarter.

While the 49ers will have Jimmy Garoppolo under center this week against the Eagles in Philadelphia, injuries are once again mounting for the team after just one game.

Star running back Raheem Mostert (knee) and Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett (ACL) are out for the season. After recording a pick-six in last week’s win over the Detroit Lions, starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw was just recently placed on short-term injured reserve with a core muscle injury.

That’s the backdrop as San Francisco looks to move to 2-0 for the first time since 2019 and just the second time in the past decade.

Next Man Up Philosophy for the San Francisco 49ers

Rookie Deommodore Lenoir is now the 49ers’ No. 1 cornerback. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)


With Verrett sidelined for the season and Emmanuel Moseley doubtful to go in this one, cornerback becomes a major issue for San Francisco.

Recently signed former Pro Bowler Josh Norman is expected to be active after sitting out last week. Head coach Kyle Shanahan also noted that another recently-signed corner in Dre Kirkpatrick has a “good chance” to be active, too.

That’s obviously not an ideal scenario going up against an Eagles team that dropped 32 points against the Atlanta Falcons last week and boasts reigning Heisman winner Devonta Smith at wide receiver.

The interesting thing here is that rookie fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir will be San Francisco’s No. 1 cornerback come Sunday afternoon. The Oregon product played 90 defensive snaps last week, yielding just one catch in the process. He’s been impressive since making the move from Eugene to Santa Clara back in the spring.

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“Just the confidence level has really picked up for him. And I know, as a rookie, it’s a lot. We’re throwing a lot at guys and they’re just wide-eyed. It’s a lot on their plate, so I’m proud of the way he’s been consistent,” new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said about the rookie this week. “And he’s been consistently getting better and better and better. And the confidence level that he has, has definitely risen over the time when he first started to now.”

With Greenlaw sidelined, third-year linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair will start at the SAM linebacker position next to All-Pro Fred Warner. On the surface, this would seem to be a major downgrade for the 49ers. But without ignoring Greenlaw’s Pro Bowl-caliber play, there’s an argument to be made that Al-Shaair is more than ready to step up.

The former undrafted free agent from Florida Atlantic recorded seven tackles, two tackles for loss and two passes defended in last week’s win over Detroit. That caught the attention of San Francisco’s coaching staff.

“With Azeez, the way he was flying around on the field, I thought he was one of the best players on the field, live, just watching him, which I know you guys noticed on TV,” Shanahan told reporters this week. “But when we watched that tape on the plane, I even felt stronger. I thought Azeez had one of his best games that he’s had here.”

Linebacker play will obviously be key for the 49ers against an Eagles team that features two tight ends in Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz. The two combined for six catches and 76 yards on seven targets last week. As for San Francisco, T.J. Hockenson caught eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown against this defense in the opener.

As for the running back position, rookie sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell stepped up big time with Mostert having exited last week’s game in the first quarter. The Louisiana product gained 104 yards and scored a touchdown on 19 attempts. He’ll be RB1 Sunday with JaMycal Hasty backing him up.

A surprise inactive last week, rookie third-round pick Trey Sermon should see the field against Philadelphia, too. It’s not yet known whether the recently-acquired Trenton Cannon will be on the field. The veteran was picked up off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this week and is seen as more of a special teams player.

The Brandon Aiyuk dilemma

San Francisco 49ers’ wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is not in the doghouse. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)


If you were on social media this past week, I am sorry. In all seriousness, media and fans freaked out over comments Shanahan made about this second-year receiver from Arizona State after he was passed over by Trent Sherfield on the depth chart last week.

“If he wants to be out there every single play, he’s got to be a lot better than the guy behind him,” Shanahan said of Aiyuk after last week’s win over the Lions.

The head coach attempted to clarify his previous comments about the former first-round pick.

“No, it’s not a doghouse,” Shanahan said Friday of Aiyuk’s standing on KNBR. “It’s a pretty simple thing. Trent Sherfield has played at a very high level every single day of training camp. Aiyuk got off to a little bit of a slow start and Trent was playing very well. When Aiyuk was starting to catch him, and to me was about to go by him, which was going to be the third preseason game — where he would’ve gotten that spot completely back — he tweaked his hamstring.”

After putting up the second-best statistical season for a San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver behind Jerry Rice, Aiyuk did not catch a single pass last week. He wasn’t targeted a single time and played just 26 snaps.

Outside of the injuries, Aiyuk’s situation will be something to watch against the Eagles come Sunday afternoon.

As for those injuries, San Francisco finished last season with the most salary cap cash wasting away on injured reserve in NFL history. The biggest key this week will be to remain relatively healthy given that the 49ers’ depth is already being tested.

Source: Injures Mount As San Francisco 49ers Seek Revenge Against Philadelphia Eagles

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