SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers defensive line has again been hit by a serious injury that will force them to dig deeper for even more reinforcements.
Reserve defensive lineman Jullian Taylor appeared to be on his way back from an elbow injury this week before suffering a right knee injury in Thursday’s practice. Taylor departed Levi’s Stadium on crutches and further tests revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Coach Kyle Shanahan announced Friday that Taylor will require surgery and his season will end just as the Niners embark on the postseason. Shanahan said he believes the injury is to Taylor’s right knee. Taylor battled left knee injuries in college.
“It was just two people, him and an O-lineman pushing on each other and came to a stop and just gave out,” Shanahan said. “It was a real unfortunate one.”
With Taylor out, the 49ers plan to promote defensive tackle Kevin Givens from the practice squad. Givens is an undrafted rookie out of Penn State who impressed in the preseason and has been on the practice squad all season, earning San Francisco’s scout team player of the week honors three times.
“Kevin had a good training camp, was close to making our roster,” Shanahan said. “He worked all year to get better and he’s been waiting for this opportunity. He got it yesterday.”
Taylor’s loss is the latest in a series that have chipped away at the Niners’ defensive line, a group that served as the team’s backbone for the first part of the season. When Taylor lands on injured reserve, he will join fellow defensive linemen D.J. Jones (ankle), Ronald Blair III (torn ACL) and Damontre Moore (forearm).
Of that group, only Jones was a starter but all of them worked in a rotation that allowed starters such as ends Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead and tackle DeForest Buckner to stay fresh. End Dee Ford has also missed four games with quadricep and hamstring injuries and has already been ruled out for Sunday’s showdown with the Seattle Seahawks after not practicing this week.
The trickle-down effect of those injuries has left the Niners scrambling for depth, as they signed end Anthony Zettel this week hoping fresh legs could help. Without reliable backups, the 49ers have had to rely on their starters to play more snaps.
For example, Bosa averaged 36.4 snaps per game through the first eight games. In the past seven games, that number has skyrocketed to 54.4 snaps per game. The attrition has forced Bosa, who said he doesn’t mind the extra work, to push through fatigue he’s never experienced playing football.
“I always want to be out on every play and then I realize that sometimes it would be better for me to take a couple plays off early in the game,” Bosa said. “But I’ll be out there whenever my team needs me.”
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