Kyle Shanahan could have a key player back in Trent Williams.
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams left a big hole in the trenches during a three-game layoff, and the wait for his return could be over this weekend.
The 10-time Pro Bowler returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday, November 9, after recovering from an ankle injury. Williams left during a Week 6 loss to the Cleveland Browns in October.
His extended absence, particularly due to missing training on Wednesday this week, raised questions about how serious it is. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged Williams’ recovery was better than expected.
“I think there obviously is. Especially when he has a lot of history and stuff. It didn’t show up as High [ankle] or something like that. But if you’ve experienced that throughout your career, there are a number of things. And it took longer to heal than expected,” Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday, November 8.
Williams is arguably the best tackle in the game with a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 81.9. The 49ers struggled without him as the offense went from allowing 33.4 points per game to scoring 17 points in three straight games.
San Francisco made it possible by having Jaylon Moore fill in for Williams, although not at the same talent and skill level. Moore earned an overall grade of 73.6 according to Pro Football Focus.
The 49ers had four other players involved on a limited basis
In addition to Williams, the 49ers had limited participation from defensive end Drake Jackson (knee), linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (ankle) and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (knee), according to Thursday’s injury report. Guard Aaron Banks (toe) did not practice for the second straight day.
In San Francisco, there were several more players on the injury report who participated fully in training on consecutive days. That team included defensive end Robert Beal (hamstring), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (shoulder), cornerback Darrell Luter (knee) and cornerback Samuel Womack (knee).
The 49ers’ Week 10 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, had no players miss training this week due to injury. Defensive backs Tyson Campbell (hamstring), Andre Cisco (hamstring) and Daniel Thomas (hamstring) were all limited. Linebacker Yasir Abdullah (illness) returned to practice Thursday and cornerback Gregory Junior participated fully.
49ers focused on a one-game season against the Jaguars
Jacksonville enters the game on a five-game winning streak while San Francisco is on a skid. All the more reason to adopt a one-game-season philosophy.
“I think it’s important every week, but especially when you’ve lost three in a row, you have to focus on the part that’s the only thing that ever matters,” Shanahan said. “It’s always a week-long season and it’s not about going running or anything like that. It’s about beating a really good football team this week.”
Additionally, Shanahan welcomed the timing of the release in the week before the Jaguars game to put their third straight loss behind them. The 49ers lost 31-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8, with Shanahan admitting the team looked exhausted.
“I think it was seen more frequently on our tape in Cincinnati than on the other tape in some time, which was concerning,” Shanahan said. “So I was happy about the break, but I also think the trip took a bit of a toll on us. I mean, these are all reasons, superficial excuses that are exactly the same thing to me. But yeah, our guys are a lot fresher at the moment. They look good and hopefully they have a good week of training, play well on Sunday and keep it that way.”
Matthew Davis covers the NFL for Heavy.com, focusing on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. He has also covered prep sports in Minnesota as a writer for the StarTribune since 2016. More about Matthew Davis