By Sam McPherson
Over the past few seasons, the San Francisco 49ers have lost a lot on defense. A unit that was ranked in the NFL’s upper echelon for four straight seasons from 2011-2014 suddenly became one of the worst in the league last year, and it hasn’t gotten any better in 2016.
Injuries and retirement have taken their toll on the 49ers defense, and now another blow in the team’s bye week: Linebacker Aaron Lynch suffered a high ankle sprain in the Week 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and even with the extra week of recovery time, he won’t be ready to play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 9.
This comes at a bad time for the San Francisco defense, after the unit lost star NaVorro Bowman a few weeks ago to a torn ACL. Lynch missed the first four games of the year due to a substance-abuse suspension, and he was just getting back into the groove of the game against the Bucs. He made three tackles in that game and registered his first sack of the season as well, after leading the team in sacks last year.
The 49ers are 19th in the league right now with 13 sacks through seven games, and that number would be even higher if Lynch had been playing the first month. Now, with him on the shelf until at least Week 10, the San Francisco defensive problems simply are magnified.
Defensive linemen Arik Armstead (shoulder) and Glenn Dorsey (knee) are still also on the shelf and unlikely to play against the Saints. The last thing the 49ers need is to hand New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees all the time he wants in the pocket to find open receivers. That is a recipe for disaster, obviously.
Some Good News
On the bright side, it looks as though giving running back Carlos Hyde the week off against Tampa Bay may be just what he needed in order to get back on the field for Week 9 at home against the Saints. Even with his inconsistency, Hyde is the best RB the team has, by far, and the 49ers offense can only benefit from having him back on the field against a poor New Orleans defense.
Hyde has 429 yards rushing this season, which is just about half of the team’s total 900 yards on the ground. He also has six of San Francisco’s 10 total rushing touchdowns in 2016. It’s easy to see how much Hyde’s presence means to the offense, even if the overall unit still isn’t capable of maximizing Head Coach Chip Kelly’s game planning. Even so, the 49ers offense is ranked fourth in the NFL at 128.6 yards per game. A healthy Hyde goes a long way toward maintaining that ranking.
Other Lingering Issues
Two other players are using this bye week in order to hopefully see the field in Week 9. Linebacker Gerald Hodges made six solo tackles and intercepted a pass against the Buccaneers, but he was unable to finish the game due to an unspecified injury. At this point, it is unknown whether he will be ready for New Orleans, but the 49ers surely can’t afford to lose any more depth at linebacker right now.
Also, cornerback Rashad Robinson injured his knee against the Buccaneers, and his status is also unknown for Week 9 at this moment. After the bye week has passed, the team will get a better idea of how these two players have responded to the rest and time off.
Arik Armstead, DL (shoulder)
Glenn Dorsey, DL (knee)
Gerald Hodges, LB (undisclosed)
Carlos Hyde, RB (shoulder)
Rashad Robinson, CB (knee)
Aaron Lynch, LB (ankle)
Post Author: Sam McPherson.