SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ pass coverage from their linebackers has been a disaster this season.
But help is on the way, as rookie Reuben Foster is expected to return to action Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys after sustaining a high right ankle sprain just 11 plays into the season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 10.
“He’s been battling to get back,” 49ers Kyle Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.
“He’s been hitting the rehab hard. We’ve had him out here for two weeks of practice, and I think he had his best week of practice. This week was much better than last week. I’m excited to get him out there.”
Last week, the 49ers cut veteran NaVorro Bowman, leaving Ray-Ray Armstrong and Brock Coyle as the starting inside linebackers. They were overmatched in the 49ers' 26-24 loss at Washington.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins looked no further than his running backs in the passing game, as Chris Thompson caught four passes for 105 yards and Samaje Perine had three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers expect Foster to provide an immediate upgrade with no expectations of perfection.
“It’s going to be his first time playing in a while,” Shanahan said. “I know there are going to be some bumps in the road. But I think he’ll have a big impact on our defense and our team overall.”
Foster will take over at Bowman’s middle linebacker position and be responsible for communicating the play calls and adjustments to the rest of the defense. Shanahan said Foster is ready to handle the important role.
“That’s the one thing that’s been the most impressive about him,” Shanahan said. “Everyone can see stuff on tape that’s impressive. But we didn’t know how much command he’d have until he got here. And from the first day of OTAs through training camp -- even walk-throughs when he was hurt -- when he gets in there, he speaks that language. He takes control and people listen to him.”