Michael Zagaris / Contributor
SANTA CLARA — Neither Kyle Shanahan nor C.J. Beathard trivializes Marquise Goodwin’s importance to the 49ers offense. Whether he catches passes or not, the threat of his Olympic speed, outstretching defenses, is an important asset that the 49ers have missed during his absence.
Goodwin has battled injuries all year long. He injured his quadriceps early in the second quarter of San Francisco’s season opener at Minnesota. He missed Week 2, then returned for Week 3. But he hurt his hamstring in the 49ers’ Week 4 matchup at Kansas City, perhaps connected to his thigh injury, sidelining him last Sunday in San Francisco’s 28-18 loss to the visiting Arizona Cardinals.
Goodwin has slowly worked his way back. He participated fully in Thursday’s practice. He ran routes at the beginning of practice and looked fluid. Shanahan said “the chances are better” of Goodwin playing Monday at Green Bay than past weeks. He has suffered no setbacks thus far.
To summarize the effects of Goodwin’s absence in Week 5, look no further than Beathard’s passing chart in Week 5. Just three of his 54 pass attempts exceeded 20 yards, two of which resulted in interceptions.
Last year, Goodwin ranked third in the NFL with 17.2 yards per reception. He and Beathard linked up for San Francisco’s longest play of the 2017 season — an 83-yard touchdown in Week 10.
Both Goodwin and rookie Dante Pettis, San Francisco’s top two downfield threats, did not play last Sunday. Beathard noticed.
“Defenses definitely have to game plan for having a guy like Marquise in there,” Beathard said. “It changes your offense a little bit and what you want to do as a scheme, for sure. So, it’ll be nice to have him back this week.”
Goodwin had his leg drained after he suffered the thigh injury in Week 1. Shanahan said “that affected a lot of his leg.”
When Goodwin was asked whether the procedure was painful, he smiled.
“It’s not that painful for me— I am a tough guy,” said Goodwin, before pausing. “It’s pretty damn painful man. Just imagine like, you’re walking down the street, (as a) pedestrian, and you have the walk signal on, but a car just come and ram you right in the leg, and you got to recover from it.”
Goodwin’s teetering health has put the 49ers in a difficult spot throughout recent weeks. Shanahan said the speedy receiver could have likely played last week, but he would not have been 100 percent, affecting lineups and rotations. The 49ers activated rookie Richie James and Victor Bolden, neither of whom had caught an NFL pass prior to Week 5, with Goodwin sidelined. Shanahan wanted to be cautious with Goodwin, so when he does return, he’s the same electrifying downfield threat that scares defenses.
That decision has looked like the correct one throughout this week.
“It’s good news that he feels as good as he does today,” Shanahan said. “That’s much better than last week and hopefully that’ll continue throughout the week.”
Seven players miss Thursday’s practice
The laundry list of injuries during Thursday’s practice epitomizes the 49ers’ season. Seven players did not participate — all coming on the offensive side of the ball. The list includes Pettis (knee), Matt Breida (shoulder, ankle), Pierre Garcon (shoulder and knee), Mike Person (knee), Weston Richburg (knee), Joe Staley (knee), and Trent Taylor (back).
Five players were limited, including Richard Sherman (calf), Reuben Foster (shoulder), George Kittle (knee), Garrett Celek (quadricep), and Jimmie Ward (hamstring).
Shanahan not ruling out Breida
The 49ers lost yet another one of their top playmakers when Breida sprained his ankle in the second quarter last Sunday. He did not return, but he avoided serious injury.
Earlier this week, Shanahan labeled Breida as doubtful for Monday’s matchup with Green Bay. On Thursday, Shanahan said he wouldn’t rule Breida out for Week 6.
Breida, who ranks fifth in the NFL in total rushing (369 yards) and first in yards per carry (7.5), worked on the side field alongside several teammates during Thursday’s practice. He did not appear to walk with a limp.
Shanahan: Kyle Juszczyk “as good of a fullback as there is or probably has been”
With all of the backfield attrition the 49ers have suffered, from Jerick McKinnon’s season-ending knee injury to Breida’s recent ankle sprain, fullback Kyle Juszczyk has become indispensable.
Prior to the 2017 season, the former Baltimore Raven signed a four-year, $21 million contract with the 49ers — comfortably the richest fullback deal in league history. He led all fullbacks in usage in 2017 and notched his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.
One year later, he is being used even more liberally. Juszczyk has played nearly 63 percent of San Francisco’s snaps, leading all of its running backs. He is the team’s second-leading receiver, averaging 14.1 yards per catch. He has also been a key contributor in the 49ers’ much-improved running game this season.
Shanahan paid top dollar for Juszczyk because his scheme requires a versatile fullback. The 27-year-old has been everything Shanahan hoped.
“Kyle is a great player,” Shanahan said. “He’s as good of a fullback as there is or probably has been. He did a great job for us last year. Yeah, the more injuries you have, the more you keep him out there because you don’t have the option to mix up personnel groups as much. But, even without that, you want him out there because he does a lot of good things in the run game and pass game. Any time you have a fullback on the field, it limits what the defense does.”