The 49ers look like they’ll have their full complement of pass rushers available for Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns and their lackluster offensive line.
Pass rusher Dee Ford returned to practice Saturday after missing the first two sessions of the week to treat recurring tendinitis in his left knee. Kyle Shanahan said early in the week there’s a good chance Ford misses practices throughout the season to ensure his knee feels good enough to play in games.
Ford, of course, dealt with the same knee tendinitis last season with the Chiefs - and a torn groin, he revealed recently - during the best year of his career in which he had 13 sacks and played over 1,000 snaps. Ford has two sacks and a forced fumble in limited playing time during the first three weeks. The Browns have allowed sacks on 7.9 percent of their dropbacks, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
It’s also looking like running back Tevin Coleman will make his return to the lineup following the left high-ankle sprain sustained in the season opening win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coleman returned to practice this week and was a limited participant in all three sessions. He’s officially listed as questionable, as is Ford.
“Tevin’s a good back, as everyone knows,” Shanahan said. “Definitely being optimistic about him being ready to go on Monday. We’ll be excited to have him.”
It appears likely Coleman being active means Jeff Wilson Jr. will likely be inactive on Sunday despite rushing for four touchdowns over the past two games. While Wilson has offered the 49ers something they’ve lacked in recent seasons near the goal line, Shanahan believes Coleman can be similarly effective. Shanahan was with the Falcons when Coleman was drafted there in 2015. And he scored 28 touchdowns the past two seasons with 14 coming inside the 10-yard line.
The Browns could be without their starting cornerbacks, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, for the third straight week as both deal with hamstring injuries. They were both listed as questionable after not practicing this week. They would be replaced by Terrance Mitchell and T.J. Carrie.
As expected, San Francisco has ruled out left tackle Joe Staley (fractured fibula) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot).
Rookie sixth-round pick Justin Skule is expected to make his second career start in Staley’s place. Second-year pro Emmanuel Moseley is the likely replacement for Witherspoon as the 49ers placed backup Jason Verrett on injured reserve this week after his troubesome knee acted up in the Steeers game.
What remains to be seen is how the 49ers use defensive back Jimmie Ward, who wasn’t listed on the injury report this week indicated he’s healthy for the first time after breaking his collar bone in the offseason and fracturing his right ring finger during a practice prior to the season opener.
Ward came into the season expected to start at free safety. But Tarvarius Moore there has started the three games in his absence while San Francisco’s defense has mostly played well, ranking third in the NFL allowing 283 yards per game.
Nick Bosa in line for increased role
The rookie pass rusher wasn’t listed on the injury report this week for the first time since his high ankle sprain in training camp. It appears the recent bye week helped his right ankle fully heal after limiting him to 56 percent of the snaps through three games.
The 49ers envision Bosa, the No. 2 pick in the draft, eventually becoming an every-down player. To this point, he’s been used primarily as a pass rusher in obvious throwing situations and third downs. He leads the team with 17 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, but has just one sack and a handful of near misses.
Shanahan said he anticipates Bosa will have an increased role as long as his health allows, “because I don’t think he was in the training room nearly as much this week. I know he was full-go for practice throughout the week. I believe that was his first week like this since he got hurt in training camp. He’s definitely doing better.”
Bosa said he spoke to his brother, Joey, during the bye week about finding ways to finish his pressures by successfully bringing down the quarterback.
“He told me,” Bosa said, “when I clear the blocker, to get my eyes on the hips on the quarterback. (That) is the best way to do that. And then Dee (Ford) gave me a tip, just in practice, just to get my inside foot through, so I could just step through and not just run by the quarterback every time in practice, so just get used to sticking through and cutting the edges as tight as you can.”
Bosa will have an opportunity to get revenge on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who helped Oklahoma beat Ohio State on their home field in 2017. That game, of course, resulted in Mayfield planting the Sooners flag at midfield.
49ers decide on December travel plays
Shanahan said the team this week decided to finalize plans for its stay in the Eastern time zone between the Dec. 1 game against the Baltimore Ravens and the following week against the New Orleans Saints, similar to the stayover in Youngstown, Ohio between the wins Week 1 and 2.
The 49ers will spend the week in Florida, Shanahan said, though he didn’t reveal where. He said he plans on speaking with the team’s leadership council of players at the team hotel before Monday’s game. The location of the team’s practices will likely be announced afterwards.