Navigating 49ers road to 53-man roster: McKinnon to IR

Jerick McKinnon's ACL tear will cost him a second straight season on injured reserve

San Francisco 49ers’ Jerick McKinnon (28) runs with the ball after receiving a handoff during training camp at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. (Randy Vazquez/Bay Area News Group)
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SANTA CLARA — Here are key observations to the 49ers initial, 53-man roster following today’s 1 p.m. deadline:

Running back Jerick McKinnon: He will miss a second straight season because of a right knee injury that’s sent him onto injured reserve. He is not eligible to return under the short-term IR designation because he was not on the initial 53-man roster. He had three setbacks in the past six weeks. He tore his ACL last Sept. 1 in practice, an hour or so after the 53-man roster got set (so keep your fingers crossed for those that made today’s version).

— Three QBs: As coach Kyle Shanahan promised, the 49ers kept three quarterbacks, at least for now, as Jimmy Garoppolo’s backups remain Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard.

Other numbers: Seven wide receivers made the cut, as did four running backs, four tight ends and only eight offensive linemen. Defensively, the 49ers would appear to have only three safeties (Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore) but D.J. Reed also can play back there.

Defensive surprises: Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair made the roster as an undrafted rookie, safety Marcell Harris got waived and defensive tackle Kentavius Street did not go on injured reserve despite a setback with his ACL recovery.

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews: Brought in to add veteran presence and experience, Jerry Rice’s cousin got released amid a tight competition. Matthews’ slot presence — even with Trent Taylor hurting — wasn’t enough. He auditioned on special teams and appeared in an exhibition finale for the first time in his six-year career. His exit should bode well for the return of Kendrick Bourne, or Richie James, or both.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jordan Matthews (81) can’t reach a throw during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Guard Joshua Garnett: Saturday’s release officially puts the “first-round bust” stamp on Garnett. Drafted 28th overall in 2016 out of Stanford, he was the final first-round selection in Trent Baalke’s general managership. All 11 of Garnett’s career starts came as a rookie. He did not start under coach Kyle Shanahan, nor was he healthy or fit enough to compete for a starting role. A dislocated finger early in training camp further doomed his bid this year.

San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Joshua Garnett is carted off the field after getting injured during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Free safety Adrian Colbert. From 2017 seventh-round pick to 2018 season-opening starter to Saturday’s waiver wire (as reported first by The Athletic). Colbert’s 49ers tenure got diverted with a lower-leg fracture early last season. He fell down the depth chart behind Jimmie Ward and Tarvarius Moore this exhibition season, and a limited showing in exhibitions (nine defensive snaps) was halted by a hamstring injury in Thursday’s finale.

Linebackers Elijah Lee and David Mayo: Neither Lee’s experience as a fill-in starter last season or Mayo’s $1.1 million in guarantees (according to overthecap.com) could convince the 49ers to keep them as backups, even after they already released Malcolm Smith. Those exist should bode well for rookie Azeez Al-Shaair, plus the return of Mark Nzeocha. Those releases were first reported by The Athletic.

Defensive ends Damontre Moore and Jeremiah Valoaga: Filling in for would-be starters Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, Moore and Valoaga were constant menaces for exhibition quarterbacks but neither is making the cut (per Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle). Valoaga’s 4 1/2 sacks were second most in the league, and Moore had two sacks to complement his team-high nine quarterback hits.

— Other cuts:

— Nine players got cut Friday, including offensive tackle Sam Young and cornerback Dontae Johnson.

— Today’s top issues entering what I’m dubbing “Club 53” are:

  • Running back Jerick McKinnon’s status. Will he go on injured reserve and be lost for the season, or will he temporarily take a roster spot so he has eligibility to come off injured reserve at midseason?
  • Will six or seven wide receivers — or less, or more — make the cut? Trent Taylor (foot) and Jalen Hurd (back) are unlikely IR candidates but their health could prompt an extra receiver or two to be carried on the Week 1 roster.
  • Guard Joshua Garnett, drafted 28th overall in 2016 out of Stanford, is entering his fifth year. He’s barely played since his rookie year, largely because of poor health. Will he stay or go? He’s gone.
  • Defensive line is the 49ers’ deepest unit. Dee Ford and Nick Bosa are healing well from training camp injuries so will the 49ers be compelled to keep an extra edge rusher such as Damontre Moore or Jeremiah Valoaga? Kevin Givens, undrafted rookie, is in the mix, at least for a practice-squad spot.
  • Jason Verrett could bolster a cornerback unit that looks mostly unchanged from last year, assuming the 49ers gamble on his suspect health. Otherwise, the 49ers surely will scour the waiver/release wire.
  • Coach Kyle Shanahan said he will keep three quarterbacks. Could C.J. Beathard be appealing, however, to a QB-needy team such as the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts or Kansas City Chiefs?

— Saturday morning’s biggest headline had to do with 49ers rival Seattle, which reportedly is trading for Houston Texans franchise-tagged outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. His only game against the 49ers came in 2017, when he hit Jimmy Garoppolo four times but registered no sacks. (The 49ers won, but of course you know that if it was 2017 and Garoppolo time.) The 49ers host the Seahawks on Nov. 11 and have their rematch Dec. 28 at The CLink.

— Check back for more on this developing story throughout the day.

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