LONDON — In the Wholesale Houston Texans Jerseys first game since he tore his pectoral muscle, J.J. Watt couldn’t do anything to help out his teammates. So he tweeted.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On Friday, the Wholesale San Francisco 49ers Jerseys got terrible injury news when an MRI revealed that linebacker Kwon Alexander will miss the rest of the season because of a torn pectoral. But after a weekend of rest, the injury news is about to get a lot better.
As the Niners prepare for a Monday night showdown against the Wholesale Seattle Seahawks Jerseys (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), they’re expected to begin welcoming back a quartet of starters from previous injuries. It’s a group that includes tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.
From that group, Staley and Juszczyk look most likely to return, but it’s possible McGlinchey and Witherspoon will also be back.
While the loss of Alexander is big, the return of so many pieces has the 49ers believing they can improve on their 8-0 start.
“The ceiling is however high you want to make it,” defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “We’ve been playing really well with guys down and the guys have been stepping up really well. To have some of those guys back is going to be very exciting. We’ve been missing them for a couple weeks and the fact we’re 8-0 without them just shows the depth on this team.”
Starting with Staley’s broken fibula in Week 2 against Cincinnati, the Niners had a streak of three games where they lost at least one starter to injury. Witherspoon injured his foot the following week against Pittsburgh, and McGlinchey and Juszczyk followed with knee injuries in the next game against Cleveland.
Each time, there were questions about the Niners’ ability to replace each player. What’s happened since has been one of the most important developments of this season. With unproven youngsters such as tackles Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and tight end-turned-fullback Ross Dwelley, the Niners proved deeper than they’ve been in recent seasons.
All four replacements have played better than expected, with the help of creative scheming by the coaches to help make the transitions more manageable.
“Just being able to have so many guys that can fill in, it’s incredible,” tight end George Kittle said. “Being able to fill the cog in the machine and just keep rolling. Just being able to get those reps, that was huge. That’s how you get better at the game is get live reps against guys.”
Getting the likes of six-time Pro Bowler Staley, three-time Pro Bowler Juszczyk and developing building block McGlinchey back should allow coach Kyle Shanahan to open his playbook further. The Niners had been heavy on ’21′ personnel, with Juszczyk playing all over the formation, but they’ve cut down on it since his injury. Dwelley has proved a solid replacement, but his playing time at fullback hasn’t been the same as what the 49ers do with Juszczyk.
While the two tackles and Juszczyk have healed, the 49ers have added more looks out of ’11′ personnel (three receivers, one tight end and one running back) and ’12′ personnel (two receivers, two tight ends, one running back). They’ve even turned to some ’13′ personnel with three tight ends.
That experience mixing things up should serve the Niners well moving forward and allow Shanahan to get even more creative.
“We’ve found two guys who can do it and you wouldn’t have known that if Joe and Mike were playing the entire time,” cornerback Richard Sherman said of the tackles. “You’d still have a lot of questions like, ‘Oh, if one of these guys gets hurt, who is going to step in?’ Those questions have been answered, and even with Juice coming back it gives us even more versatility because the guys who have had to fill in for Juice are going to be able to be just as versatile. Kyle [Shanahan] is going to be able to call the offense as he has whether Juice is in or not.”
As for the defense, Moseley has been so good in Witherspoon’s stead that some have wondered if Witherspoon will have to win his job back. Shanahan and coordinator Robert Saleh have said they don’t believe in players losing their job to injury, but they trust Moseley.
Suddenly, a cornerback group that seemed to lack depth behind Sherman has multiple options.
“Emmanuel has been fantastic and been one of the best corners in the league statistically,” Sherman said. “Anytime you are playing like that, it shows depth … it gives everybody confidence in what we can do with who we have.”
The Niners don’t play on the road again until Dec. 1. The schedule will get tougher, but the Niners believe that as it does, they will only get better as they get healthier — a scary proposition for a team that hasn’t lost yet.
“We’ll heal up, get some guys back and make a run at this thing,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “We’ve got a long way to go but we’re on the right track.”
While Watt couldn’t help against the Jaguars, his teammates were able to hold the Jaguars to three cups … or points, for the rest of the game. It’s only one game, but the Texans showed signs they might be OK going forward without the three-time Wholesale NFL Jerseys Defensive Player of the Year.
The Texans’ defensive game plan against the Jaguars on Sunday, safety Justin Reid said, was to take the ball out of Leonard Fournette’s hands. The Jaguars came into the game ranked fifth in rushing, averaging 136.5 rushing yards per game. Houston held Fournette — who entered the game No. 2 in rushing yards and No. 1 in attempts — to 40 yards on 11 carries.
“[Fournette] and [Panthers running back] Christian McCaffrey, they get the most touches in the league, so a big part of this game plan was just get them out of their usual system,” Reid said. “Get the balls away from him. Force them in passing situations.”
When the Texans forced quarterback Gardner Minshew into passing situations, the goal was to keep him in the pocket. Houston learned when they played Minshew and the Jaguars in Week 2 that Minshew makes his biggest plays when he can scramble. “We learned how elusive he was from that game, and then the games after,” Reid said.
On Sunday, Minshew ran for 34 yards on four carries, but the defense was able to keep him in check through the air. The quarterback completed 27 of 47 passes for 309 yards, but didn’t throw a touchdown. He threw two interceptions.
The defense was also focused on making sure they didn’t give up any big plays to Minshew.
“We really wanted to make them chip their way down the field and make them play sound and see if they can handle trying to string together a 13-, 14-play drive,” Reid said. “We didn’t just want to give up a two-play, big-play drive. So we just kept everything underneath us, played sound, fundamental technique.”
Jacksonville had only one drive of more than 11 plays, and that resulted in turning the ball over on downs with 10 minutes and 58 seconds left in the game. Houston allowed only four plays of 20-plus yards, and only one play that went 20 or more yards through the air. It’s a credit to the Texans’ depleted secondary that was without safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Lonnie Johnson. Veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who played through injuries to his neck and shoulder, called the victory over Jacksonville “one of our best games” as a secondary.
When Watt was put on injured reserve, he led the NFL in pressures and quarterback hits. Against the Jaguars, the Texans had four sacks, three of which came in the second half. Minshew was hit five times after halftime as well. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus acknowledged that in the first half, the Texans weren’t getting as much pressure as they wanted, but said Houston was focused on having a “disciplined rush.” According to Mercilus, that paid off in the second half.
Chris Berman and Tom Jackson recap the weekend’s games with extended highlights and analysis.
The show will stream live at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday during the 2019 season and will be available on demand each week until late Wednesday night. Watch on ESPN+
All week, Texans players acknowledged that they’d obviously miss Watt but that they couldn’t dwell on it. The NFL cliché “next man up” was said over and over again. After all, Houston has been through this before. This is the third time in the last four seasons that Watt will spend at least half of the season on injured reserve.
In the past, the Texans have had players step up to overcome the absence of Watt. In 2016, when Watt needed back surgery, Mercilus had 7.5 sacks and the defense ranked No. 1 — and secondary No. 2 — in the NFL in yards allowed per game. In 2017, when Watt broke his leg, Jadeveon Clowney had a career-high 9.5 sacks.
Who will step up this year? It could be Mercilus, the Texans’ only proven pass-rusher after Houston traded Clowney before the start of the season. But head coach Bill O’Brien has said it will be a group of players who will replace Watt. The Texans took a step in the right direction against the Jaguars, which is a welcome sign before the tough three-game stretch Houston has coming up after the bye week: games against division leaders Wholesale Baltimore Ravens Jerseys, Wholesale Indianapolis Colts Jerseys and Wholesale New England Patriots Jerseys.