Typically teams can’t use their injury fortunes as an excuse for not playing well. The 2020 San Francisco might be an exception.
San Francisco won the NFC last year, now they’re in a spot where they’ll have to fight hard to finish .500. They’ve had their issues unrelated to the players they’ve been without, but it’s reached a point after nine weeks that expecting this to be even close to the same team that went 13-3 a year ago is probably unrealistic.
The sheer number of players illustrates the scope of the problem for San Francisco, but the quality of players missing makes it hard to set their injury issues aside when assessing their struggles in 2020.
Pro Football Focus’ grades give a glimpse into how far removed this year’s 49ers are from the club that played in the Super Bowl in February.
Here are the 10 highest-graded players for the 49ers last season:
TE George Kittle, 94.4
CB Richard Sherman, 90.3
DE Nick Bosa, 89.8
DL Arik Armstead, 89.6
FS Jimmie Ward, 85.0
RB Raheem Mostert, 82.9
DL DeForest Buckner, 81.5
LT Joe Staley, 81.3
CB K’Waun Williams, 80.3
WR Deebo Samuel, 77.5
Of those 10 players, Armstead is the only one who hasn’t missed a game this season. Ward is the only player who’s missed just one game — a Week 7 showdown with the Patriots. He strained his quad going into that game and returned the following week.
Two are no longer with the club. Staley retired after last season, and Buckner was traded to Indianapolis in the offseason.
Two of them, Samuel and Williams, have spent time on Injured Reserve. The former has missed five games, while the latter has missed three. Both are also going into Week 10 with uncertain statuses. Samuel is dealing with a hamstring injury. Williams has a high ankle sprain.
Kittle, Sherman and Bosa, the three highest-graded players, are all on IR heading into Week 10. Mostert is on IR as well. Bosa tore his ACL in Week 2 and is done for the season. Kittle fractured his foot in Week 8 and could miss the remainder of the year. Sherman hurt his calf in Week 1, went on IR and hasn’t come off. Mostert was out for Weeks 3 and 4 with a knee sprain he suffered in a Week 2 win over the Jets. He returned in Week 5 only to sustain a high ankle sprain in Week 6 that landed him on IR.
Not included on this list is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s now on IR and has been dealing with a high ankle sprain since Week 2. Defensive end Dee Ford has also been on IR since Week 1 with a back injury.
San Francisco’s hopes of retaining their division title are all but extinct, and their playoff hopes are rapidly fading due in large part to the inescapable onslaught of injuries to the key players from the roster that went to the Super Bowl.