After an encouraging NFL debut, there’s uncertainty surrounding Nick Bosa’s second act.
Bosa has missed the first two practices this week ahead of Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) while his bothersome right ankle hasn’t progressed enough to get back on the field this week. His status for Cincinnati is up in the air while the 49ers (1-0) will continue to exercise caution with the prized pass rusher.
“He’s working with the performance staff trying to get ready for Sunday. And we’ll see,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh following Thursday’s practice at Youngstown State.
General manager John Lynch in a Thursday morning radio interview sounded more optimistic about Bosa’s chances.
“He did come out a little sore, traveling and all that kind of amplified that a little bit,” Lynch said on 95.7 The Game. “He’s doing a really good job kind of getting that out there. We’ll see what he does today. But he’ll work limited throughout the week, but he’s fully (intent) on playing. As for the snaps, we’ll kind of see how that goes.”
Bosa had a sack and handful of pressures of quarterback Jameis Winston in San Francisco’s 31-17 victory that was carried by a strong defensive performance that included a pair of pick-sixes. Bosa was clearly hobbled late in the game by his high ankle sprain that kept him out of the preseason and most of training camp.
Without Bosa, San Francisco would likely rely on Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and Ronald Blair to fill in the rotation at defensive end. Armstead also played well in the opener, logging an important sack in the red zone late in the game. Thomas, the No. 3 pick in 2017, played just 12 snaps last week as he looks to rebound after tallying just one sack in 2018.
Fellow newcomer Dee Ford also had a promising debut, logging his first strip sack while playing 40 snaps. The 49ers could take advantage of the Bengals’ tackle situation as first-round draft pick Jonah Williams, who played at Folsom High, is out for the season following surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum. Williams’ replacement, Cordy Glenn, is in the league’s concussion protocol and uncertain for Sunday.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor spent the last two seasons as the quarterback coach for the division rival Rams and has already noticed how Bosa and Ford have impacted the 49ers defense.
“They’re guys you always got to be aware of,” Taylor said. “There’s not a lot of film on Bosa yet. We all know he’s a great player and he was picked high for a reason. Dee Ford’s been a challenge for a long time. Like last year, playing Kansas City, he’s a really talented player. They’ve upgraded in a lot of different areas. It will be a tough challenge for our offense.”
Willis, Smith named Hall of Fame nominees
Former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive lineman Justin Smith on Thursday became eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time.
The Hall of Fame on Thursday announced the 122 nominees for the 2020 class, which includes Willis and Smith, who both retired from San Francisco following the 2014 seasons.
“Justin Smith, his pure strain and violence that he played with inside,” Saleh said, “he was just like Brahman bull in there. He’s so strong. And then with Patrick Willis, the running and hitting. He was as fast and as hard a hitter at linebacker when he played as anyone I can remember – up there with the best of them. Well deserved (for) those two, for sure.”
Smith, who was one of the best defensive players in the NFL during the 49ers run of Super Bowl contention from 2011 to 2013, appears to have long odds to make get enshrined. Willis has a compelling case, though the knock against him was playing just eight seasons before his sudden retirement.
Willis went to the Pro Bowl the first seven years of his career before foot injuries in his final campaign held him to just six games. He led the NFL in tackles as a rookie in 2007 and in 2009. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro and widely considered one of the best linebackers of his generation.