By Sam McPherson

The San Francisco 49ers offense has taken a lot of criticism this year for being historically bad, but the team’s defense hasn’t been too stellar, either, especially on the road where the 49ers have given up a whopping 31.4 points per game away from Levi’s Stadium.

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As San Francisco prepares to take on the Detroit Lions Sunday in their final road game of 2015, the 49ers defense is once again going to be missing one of its best players: linebacker Michael Wilhoite. He was unable to participate in workouts this week due to an ongoing ankle problem that has forced him to miss the last two games as well.

Wilhoite was in the NFL’s Top 10 for total tackles before injuring the ankle, and coupled with NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers had a linebacking corps that rivaled the best the in the league. That hasn’t been the case lately with Wilhoite and sack specialist Aaron Lynch out, too.

Speaking of Lynch, he has been able to practice fully this week as he tries to get back on the field after a concussion suffered against the Chicago Bears. He, too, missed the last two games, but Lynch should be on the field Sunday against Detroit.

The remainder of the key injuries for the 49ers this week involve the offense, which is the league’s worst in terms of points scored and yards gained: Running back Shaun Draughn (knee), center Marcus Martin (concussion) and wide receiver Torrey Smith (back, toe) are the afflicted ones.

Draughn is doubtful for the Lions matchup after not being able to go in any workouts this week. He’s been the 49ers main back in the running game for the last six weeks, averaging almost 44 yards per game. However, San Francisco has fallen behind in games so frequently the offense has abandoned the run early in most games, limiting Draughn’s touches.

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Either way, the team will be going with RBs Kendall Gaskins and the newly-signed DuJuan Harris against Detroit. The 49ers will need to get the running game going even more so if Martin cannot take the field on Sunday. He didn’t practice all week, so it doesn’t look likely that he will clear the league’s concussion protocol process by game time at Ford Field.

Finally, wide receiver Torrey Smith has multiple injuries he’s been coping with over the last month or so. He sat out of Wednesday’s practice and was limited during Thursday’s workouts. Smith is a five-year NFL veteran who has never missed a game, and he will be on the field against the Lions in spite of the nagging physical problems.

Smith, of course, was the hero of the Chicago game, catching the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. He leads the team with a 22.3 yards-per-reception average in 2015, and Smith is second overall in receiving yardage (573 yards). The 49ers offense needs him in there to stretch the defense, even if he’s not making that many plays.

That win over the Bears is the only San Francisco win since the bye week, and with just two games left on the schedule, time is running out for this roster to prove itself worthy of 2016 consideration and commitment.

Aaron Lynch, LB (concussion)
Torrey Smith, WR (toe)

Shaun Draughn, RB (knee)
Marcus Martin, C (concussion)
Michael Wilhoite, L (ankle)

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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.