Former first-round pick Arik Armstead will have surgery to repair a broken hand suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Washington Redskins and may go on injured reserve for the second consecutive season, coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.
Shanahan said the 49ers will have to weigh the time it will take Armstead’s hand to heal against filling his roster spot with an able-bodied defender.
“He’ll be out for a while,” Shanahan said. “... The more guys you lose, the less you like that depth. Losing Arik, which could be for some time – we’re going to have to discuss IR (injured reserve). We’re going to have to do that over the next couple of days.”
Armstead, a starter at defensive end, appeared to suffer the injury with about eight minutes left in the second quarter. He was replaced in large part by Aaron Lynch, who suffered his own injury, a calf strain, in the second half.
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“We know we’re going to have Lynch out, too, for at least a week or most likely more,” Shanahan said. “That takes away two guys who were helping.”
Armstead, a Pleasant Grove High School graduate, was the 17th pick in the 2015 draft. He exacerbated a preexisting shoulder injury during training camp in 2016 that inhibited his play early last season and eventually landed him on injured reserve after eight games.
Armstead had surgery on the shoulder and began this season fully healthy. He’s tied for 11th on the team with 16 tackles. His 1 1/2 sacks is tied for third.
The 49ers have dealt with a number of injuries along the defensive line and outside linebacker, which has led to some players – DeForest Buckner, in particular – playing an abundance of snaps.
No NFL interior defender has played more snaps this season than Buckner, who has 376 so far. At that pace, he’ll end the season with 1,003 defensive snaps. Last year as a rookie, he totaled 1,005 snaps, although he missed one full game in 2016 due to an ankle injury.
First-round pick Solomon Thomas’ playing time has increased in recent weeks and he and outside linebacker Eli Harold each had a team-high nine tackles Sunday. Thomas also led all 49ers defensive lineman with 68 snaps, followed by Buckner (61), nose tackle Earl Mitchell (49) and defensive tackle Xavier Cooper (32).
“I thought he took a little bit of a step back vs. Indy, and I thought he took a step forward this week,” Shanahan said of Thomas. “I thought he played relentlessly. He played very hard.”
Every NFL team can bring two players back from injured reserve so long as they have sat out for at least eight weeks. The 49ers already have two defensive ends, Ronald Blair (hand) and Tank Carradine (ankle), on injured reserve. Blair is able to come back in time for Week 9 vs. the Arizona Cardinals; Carradine could return to the lineup as soon as Week 12 against the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers could get outside linebacker Dekoda Watson (groin) back in time for Sunday’s home game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Foster update – Shanahan said he decided after Friday’s practice that rookie linebacker Reuben Foster would not play against Washington. Foster hasn’t been in uniform since suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 1.
“He was close all week, but I didn’t think he put together three days (of practice) 100 percent like we wanted him to,” Shanahan said.
He said that when Foster does return, he will play the “Mike” linebacker spot that NaVorro Bowman played earlier this year. The Raiders signed Bowman to a one-year deal Monday.