Reuben Foster has been suspended for the first 2 games of the 2018 season. He will be eligible to return to the 49ers’ active roster Monday, 9/17 after the home-opener vs. the Detroit Lions. Considering how bad it looked when all this drama started, 2 games isn’t as bad as it could have been. So now there are 2 questions we all are asking:
- Who takes his place for the 2 games?
- Will this cost of any of the 2 games he’s gone?
To answer the first one, the Niners prepared themselves for this exact situation, so they certainly have options. On paper you would think that the they would go with Malcolm Smith at the “Will” (the non-strong side) linebacker and Brock Coyle at “Mike” (middle) linebacker. Brock Coyle missed full-team drills throughout the off-season program to recover from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, but did play 13 games starting 7 last year at Mike and played well enough to earn a 3 year contract extension. Coyle might not be the long term answer at Mike, but his time in Seattle means he is familiar enough with the defense to play the 2 games the Niners will need from him. Now while I said that I believe that Malcolm Smith will start the season at the Will, but he has played Mike before and is very familiar with Robert Saleh from their days together at Seattle. The wild cards in this equation are 3rd draft pick Fred Warner and free agent Korey Toomer. Warner has flashed all off-season and has a rare combination of speed (running a 4.64 at this year’s combine scouting), size (6’3 236 Lbs.), and coverage ability (7 picks and 13 pass defensed in 4 years at BYU). Clearly the Niners see him and Reuben Foster as the future of this team.
The last player that has a shot at filling in for Reuben is Korey Toomer. Toomer was signed this year to a one-year deal for special teams and linebacker depth. Toomer is coming off a career-high 15 games (eight starts) where he tallied 46 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 3 passes-defensed. Not great numbers, but yet again luckily the 49ers don’t have to replace Reuben completely, they just need someone to will fill in for 2, maybe 3 games max if they don’t want to rush him. A lot can happen in training camp but this is how I see it playing out.
Now the question remains — will the 49ers lose to Minnesota and/or Detroit strictly due to the absence of Reuben on the field?
The short answer is: I think the 49ers could definitely lose against Minnesota, but not Detroit. Minnesota will be a strong challenge –mostly offensively, but not so much defensively. As far as Detroit, come on, its Detroit — in the Bay Area ANDi t’s the home-opener. I know Matthew Stafford is a good QB, but I still don’t see the 49ers losing this game. The game that I would be most concerned about would be week 3 at Kansas City. The Niners have struggled mightily at Arrowhead Stadium recently, and with the offensive power the Chiefs have acquired, it would be a tough task (although certainly not impossible, as I still have faith in my team) with Reuben, so I can’t see it being any easier without him. I don’t expect to see Foster miss that game, but you never know a lot can happen between now and September 23rd.
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