With Trent Brown being shut down for the remainder of the season, the 49ers have now used the injured reserve list 21 times this season. Kyle Shanahan has seen how the rash of injuries has affected his team’s development.
“You get better when the same guys play week-in and week-out. When a group of guys struggle together, if that same group is out there the next week, they have a chance to improve,” Shanahan said from the podium at his Friday media session. “I think we went through a span where it seemed each week there was a different guy here and there. I think that kind of put us on hold for a little bit. But I feel this last month or so the continuity has been a lot better. I feel that’s why we’ve gotten a little better each week. The more you can keep those same people playing next to each other, the more it helps.”
With Brown out, Zane Beadles will start for the second straight game. He’s taken snaps at all of the positions on the offensive line throughout practices this season. But he’s picking up the nuances of right tackle working in the same position for most of the last two weeks.
“The biggest thing is in pass protection you have to get depth. On the inside everything happens on the line of scrimmage. Those guys are responsible for the depth of the pocket,” Beadles explained. “At tackle, you gotta get off the ball. Those guys are flying up the field. You have a lot more space to cover. It’s a little different mentality, a little bit different physical demands, so it’s just working on those things through out the week and getting comfortable with it.”
Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney gave Beadles plenty of attention last week, and Beadles expects more of the same from the Titans.
“Bring on the challenge. That’s the way this league is,” Beadles said. “You’re going to get challenged until you prove you can get the job done.”
That also applies to whatever player is pulled up from practice squad. Cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (knee) and Greg Mabin (calf) are questionable for Sunday’s game, and Shanahan is likely to make a move by Saturday’s 1 p.m. deadline.
The 49ers last three games are against teams still in the postseason picture, and they expect a playoff atmosphere for each of them starting on Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo is making his first start at Levi’s against a Titans team battling for the lead in the AFC South. Whatever setbacks the team has experienced through injuries this season, Shanahan sees these final three games as the biggest opportunity for its growth.
“They are going to feel an intensity from these teams, especially Tennessee on Sunday, that’s probably a little more intense than what they’ve felt from other teams throughout this year. I expect us to be the exact same way and learn from that,” Shanahan said.
“Our goal, and what we expect, is to be in that situation next year. I’d like that not to be our first time in that situation. I don’t see why our team can’t treat these three games like we’re playing for our playoff lives, too.”