Jimmie Ward

Next men up: four 49ers who could be called on in Denver

Chris Borland 49ers

Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams shouldn’t be allowed to work together. The dirtiness of Fisher’s teams, combined with Williams’ known bounty history, should make such an arrangement illegal in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and wherever else NFL football may be played.

The 49ers got a taste of Rams Ball last night, which generally means shoddy football with lots of injuries for the opposing/better team. This isn’t to say that the four (known) injuries the 49ers suffered last night were the result of shady tactics from Fisher’s crew, but we’ve seen this movie before. NFC West games are wars of attrition, but the body count is easier to stomach when the team you’re playing isn’t awful.

Either way, the 49ers lost Patrick Willis (turf toe — probably not the Rams’ fault, but an injury that won’t occur as often against them whenever they move to Los Angeles and go back to playing on natural grass). Jimmie Ward suffered a quad injury of some sort (again, the Rams probably aren’t to blame). Mike Iupati left with a concussion and Stevie Johnson was injured after catching an onside kick.

The 49ers get one less day than usual to prepare for the Broncos. After that, it’s bye week time. Five days in between games instead of six might not bode well for Iupati’s chances of passing the concussion protocol. If Willis (who was seen wearing a walking boot after the game) indeed has turf toe, he won’t be back for at least a couple of weeks regardless. The severity of Ward’s and Johnson’s injuries isn’t known. But let’s assume they’re all too hurt to play in Denver.

Quinton Patton 49ers OTAs1. In for Willis: Chris Borland

The rookie third rounder looked like he knew what he was doing after Willis’ departure, as Pro Football Focus graded him out at +3.7 last night in 33 snaps as he registered two pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. However, playing the Rams and their nearly anonymous quarterback isn’t the same as facing Peyton Manning and Julius Thomas. The Broncos tight end is on pace for 29(!) touchdowns.

2. In for Iupati: Joe Looney

The offensive line seemed to finally be gelling last week, so losing Iupati would be a tough blow. Looney played some last year, and he performed well yesterday (his PFF score would have been in the mid 1s if he wasn’t called for an illegal substitution penalty that was declined). But it’s not just the Broncos’ offense that’s better than what the 49ers saw in St. Louis. Denver’s defense is fourth overall in total yards allowed and they have 15 quarterback sacks (tied-seventh).

3. In for Ward: Chris Cook

Ward’s absence pushed Perrish Cox to the slot on Monday night, and Chris Cook took over Cox’s spot on the left side. Cook got 19 snaps and played well — he broke up a pass and kept the Rams from picking up a big play on his watch. Everyone knows what the Broncos passing attack can do, and on Sunday night Cook probably would’ve been needed even if nothing happened to Ward. We’ll probably see more of Dontae Johnson, who took his first career interception to the house last night, as well.

4. In for Johnson: Quinton Patton

Remember him? The second-year receiver has been patiently waiting to make the active roster for the first time all season. With Johnson apparently taking a knee to the hip, back or leg, Patton could get his chance to play. Whether he’d get many/any snaps is anyone’s guess. Brandon Lloyd was inactive for the Bears game, but he’s played every game since and his yardage has improved each week. If Patton has handled his inactivity well — meaning strong work in practices — the 49ers may use him as a secret weapon.

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