The 49ers are on their mini-bye weekend, following a 28-25 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.
San Francisco (8-0) returns to action in Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in a key NFC West matchup.
The victory in Glendale, Arizona, came at a cost, though. Spark-plug defender Kwon Alexander was lost for the season due to a torn pectoral.
Questions about the team’s linebacker position lead off this edition of 49ers Mailbag.
What is possibly the Niners will sign a linebacker to replace Alexander and who is available?— David Clare (@dwc1David) November 2, 2019
The 49ers will add a linebacker to their 53-man to fill the spot vacated when Alexander goes on injured reserve. That player appeared in 30 games the past two seasons and started five games at the end of the 2018 season.
He is 23-year-old Elijah Lee, who registered 10 or more tackles in four of his five starts last season. Lee spent the first eight games on the 49ers’ practice squad, and I’m mildly surprised another team did not sign him in the first half of the season.
Lee knows the defensive system. He will take a spot on the depth chart behind Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair and Mark Nzeocha while also serving a role as one of the team’s core special-teams contributor.
Would we be able to activate Kwon if he somehow recovers in December or January?— NJ (@qnjastros) November 2, 2019
Rehabilitation from surgery to repair a torn pectoral typically is a six-month process. The goal for Alexander will be to get him ready for the start of training camp in 2020.
That said, no decision has to be made when a player goes on injured reserve until further down the road. Teams are allowed to bring back only two players per season off IR. Those players must remain on IR for a minimum of eight weeks.
Kwon’s forte was attack and speed between the sidelines. Between Greenlaw and Nzechoa; who is better equipped to replace Alexander?— Bob Cook (@TnNinerfan) November 2, 2019
Dre Greenlaw is the choice to replace Alexander in the starting lineup at weakside linebacker. The 49ers’ linebacker positions are more interchangeable than they’ve been in the past, and Greenlaw was the starter at strongside linebacker in the team’s base defense. That position is the first to exit the field when the 49ers go to their nickel defense.
Greenlaw is more similar to Alexander with his ability to run and hit. Alexander will be difficult to replace due to his play-making ability, knowledge of the game, professionalism and attitude. Greenlaw has the physical skills, so his biggest challenges will be from the shoulders up.
The bigger choice will be which player -- Mark Nzeocha or Azeez Al-Shaair -- will take over on the strong side on base downs. The 49ers have a high opinion of Al-Shaair and envision him as a potential starter in the coming seasons.
I do not want this to sound smart-alecky or insensitive, but with Josh Gordon's history, it is probably not wise to make any definitive statement about his future availability or projected contributions.
But, yes, the Seattle Seahawks’ plan is to assimilate him into the offense and get him ready to play against the 49ers on Monday, Nov. 11.
The Seahawks were the only team to claim Gordon off waivers on Friday after the New England Patriots parted ways with him after just six games, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported.
My opinion is the 49ers were not interested because Kyle Shanahan knows as well as anyone that he is not someone to be relied upon. They decided they did not want to release Marquise Goodwin to bring him aboard.
Do you think we will see Marquise Goodwin soon?— Ryan Brooks (@ryanbrooks_116) November 2, 2019
The 49ers have five receivers active on game days. Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel and Richie James (due to his contributions in the return game) are no-brainers. Kendrick Bourne has turned into a reliable target, so he’s pretty much a lock, too.
That leaves the decision for that fifth spot coming down to Dante Pettis or Marquise Goodwin. The 49ers believe Dante Pettis is improving and has a lot to offer due to his versatility. At this stage, unless there’s an injury, I don’t see how Goodwin gets back on the field with the 49ers.
Which of the injured players are expected back for the Seahawks?— Marty Moran (@Nuggetbox151) November 2, 2019
The most likely players to be available to return to action for Week 10 against Seattle are left tackle Joe Staley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Staley went through limited practice work in the past two weeks, and here’s some video from Thursday night of Juszczyk going through a workout ...
The 49ers also have a chance of getting Mike McGlinchey and Ahkello Witherspoon back in the lineup. There is probably less of a rush to get McGlinchey and Witherspoon back, though, because Daniel Brunskill and Emmanuel Moseley are playing so well.
Staley has been going through some intense workouts for a while. The fibula (the non-weight-bearing bone in his lower leg) is completely healed. But it will take some time to get all of his strength back and get up to playing speed.
I would not expect any long-term issues, though. In fact, I’d expect him -- as well as all of the guys returning off injuries -- to get better and better through November and into December and January.
Does E-Man still play when Witherspoon is back at some capacity?— MortalKumbia (@uprise49) November 2, 2019
That is a good question. How good? It’s a question I recently posed to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Here was Saleh’s response:
"We haven't crossed that one. yet. Ahkello had been playing so, so well. You know, it's a messed-up question, but you never have a philosophy that an injury will put you on the bench. Ahkello, he's been working to get healthy, and when he's ready to go, he's going to be ready to go."
If the Niners pick at the back end of the 2020 1st round, what position do they target?— Efrim Dragovic (@efdrag) November 2, 2019
Best. Player. Available.
As I see this roster right now, there is no position need for the future that is so urgent that the 49ers have to reach for a lesser player just because he plays the position where immediate help is needed.
And, because of the health of the roster, the 49ers might be inclined to trade out of the first round for multiple draft picks. As it stands right now, San Francisco only has six picks in the 2020 draft.