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49ers mailbag: How to replace Juszczyk? And how does San Francisco match up with Rams?

Jason Mobbs asks: Is there someone on the 49ers roster that Kyle Shanahan can use as a fullback to replace Juice (Kyle Juszczyk) if he is out for an extended period?

Jason asks: Can Jeff Wilson Jr. fill in at fullback for a couple weeks?

The only thing we can say for certain about replacing Juszczyk is it’s going to take some creativity. He’s the only fullback on the roster and he’s likely the best in the league at his position.

Juszczyk played 34 snaps Monday while the 49ers used non-fullback personnel groupings on 39 of their 76 offensive plays, according to our friend Nick Wagoner of ESPN. They averaged over 9.0 yards per play with Juszczyk on the field.

Replacing Juszczyk will likely done by Kyle Shanahan’s committee of tight ends. George Kittle and Ross Dwelley both lined up in the backfield after Juszczyk left the game. I’d imagine similar mixing and matching Sunday with blocking tight end Levine Toilolo getting more playing time against the Rams.

I doubt Wilson would be asked to play fullback. There are too many differing responsibilities with halfback and fullback (oddly enough, there’s more carryover between tight end and fullback). Plus, Juszczyk is listed at a tight end-like 240 pounds while Wilson is probably closer to 210.

What makes Juszczyk so valuable is his ability to block defenders of every size at every level of the defense. Wilson doesn’t have that skill set, but Kittle and Dwelley might while providing mismatch issues in the passing game.

On the bright side, not having Juszczyk could give the 49ers an advantage. They’ll re-work some things with their offense in ways that maybe haven’t been put on film allowing them to take the Rams by surprise with certain formations and groupings.

But to a broader point, the 49ers have lost starters in each of their first four games due to injury. That’s not something that’s sustainable over the long run.

Pirate Spitter asks: The big question: how do you think we really stack up against the Rams? Obviously they’ve lost two in a row, the Tampa loss being particularly bad. But one gets the sense they’ll pull it together at some point. Hopefully not this week!

Here’s the best reason to be optimistic about the 49ers’ chances in the NFC West: they might have the best defensive line *and* offensive line in the division.

That could go a long way toward deciding things, particularly with how poorly the Rams’ and Seahawks’ offensive lines have played to date.

There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical of San Francisco’s plan with the defense in the offseason. Their secondary was flat-out bad last year and the team made no significant investments to improve it aside from adding a new position coach (Joe Woods) and tinkering with the scheme (namely, pre-snap disguises and making the safeties more interchangeable).

Instead, they fortified the defensive front with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, which has helped unlock DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead on the inside. There might not be better four-man defensive front right now.

Brandon Harvey asks: Which is the real team? The one we’ve seen against Tampa Bay/Pittsburgh, or the one we’ve seen against Cincinnati/Cleveland?

The good news is the 49ers got wins despite not being particularly sharp against the Buccaneers and Steelers, which is ultimately a sign of a good team.

Winning through adversity is something they haven’t been able to do in recent seasons, which indicates the coaching staff is doing a nice job getting the team prepared and the talent on the roster has taken obvious steps forward.

I do think the inconsistencies you hint at are a key characteristic of this team. They’ll have no problem moving the ball, but they might be prove to giving the ball away. That’s been the rap on Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense since he got here.

What’s different about this year’s team is the defense is good enough to carry the offense while it’s slumping — or at least prevent opponents from scoring touchdowns off turnovers, which was a clear weak point throughout last year.

Suffice to say, I imagine we keep getting up and down performances from the team throughout the year. The key will be ironing out those inconsistencies for the last six games when the schedule gets tough.

North ID Niner asks: Out of all the players on IR, who do you see them bringing back once eligible?

Fair to say the receiving corps has been the 49ers’ most inconsistent position group this season. And it so happens Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd might prove to be valuable reinforcements for the stretch run.

Remember, Shanahan said Taylor was the best player on offense throughout training camp and playing better than he did in 2017 when he made a slew of clutch catches with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. Getting Taylor back could be massive while Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel continue to get more comfortable — and work on avoiding drops.

Hurd is a wild card this season. He looked spectacular in his preseason debut, but that won’t mean anything if he can get on to the field for meaningful playing time. Having Hurd as another athletic, big-bodied target could give the offense a nice boost if he can recover fully from his back injury.

Otherwise, it doesn’t seem likely Jason Verrett plays again this season. There might not be a need to rush him back given how Emmanuel Moseley looked at cornerback on Monday. Kentavius Street is another possibility. But the 49ers have already made Jullian Taylor inactive multiple times this season which makes it unlikely there would be room for Street to contribute unless there were multiple injuries along the defensive line.

Ron Swanson asks: Is it just me or did Mosley play pretty darn well last night?

He broke up a possible touchdown pass in the second quarter and prevented Odell Beckham Jr. from a long completion with tight coverage along the sideline in the third.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Moseley played well in his debut, though he face a stiffer challenge against the Rams who have one of the most talented receiving corps in the league with Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.

Nicky In Cleveland asks: Why is Richard Sherman acting like a petulant child?

I guess we have to address the handshake incident. Here goes.

Sherman told NFL.com’s Michael Silver he took issue with Baker Mayfield not shaking his hand before the coin toss. But then video came out showing Mayfield and Sherman dapping each other up. Then Sherman came out and said he was upset about Mayfield running back to the sideline after the coin toss instead of dapping up the 49ers’ captains gain.

I have zero interest in re-litigating “respecting the game” or if Mayfield’s actions were childish.

The more important point here is the 49ers felt some kind of way about Mayfield leading into the game. We know that’s true for Nick Bosa, who told The Bee last week he planned on doing his flag-planting celebration if he were able to get to the quarterback.

For Sherman, he takes any slights against him and finds ways to use them as motivation. The mountain he carries on his shoulders is a big reason he’s carved out a Hall of Fame career. He could have looked at the expression on Mayfield’s face and decided that was going to fuel his fire for the game. I don’t know.

Sherman’s point about Mayfield was the second-year quarterback has acted like he’s arrived, which he clearly hasn’t. Mayfield is going through a very predictable second-year slump amid a slew of endorsement deals and headlines that have raised his profile. Sherman, and many other 49ers defenders, clearly aren’t a fan.

They’ll tell you respect is earned in the NFL and not given — and perhaps Sherman felt a sense of entitlement from the Browns quarterback that rubbed him in the wrong way, so he went off.

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Chris Biderman has covered the 49ers since 2013 and began covering the team for The Sacramento Bee in August 2018. He previously spent time with the Associated Press and USA TODAY Sports Media Group. A Santa Rosa native, he graduated with a degree in journalism from The Ohio State University.
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