The 49ers went into this season confident they had plenty of depth along their defensive front. Then, injuries took their toll. One by one, linemen such as Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, Solomon Thomas, Tank Carradine and Chris Jones have missed games or been lost for the season.
One, however, has returned and made a big impact.
In Sunday’s first victory of 2017, a 31-21 win over the visiting New York Giants, Blair – playing his second game since missing the first seven with a thumb injury suffered during preseason – started at defensive tackle. The fifth-round pick out of Appalachian State in 2016 had two sacks, a tackle for loss and was a force on the interior. One of the sacks produced a fumble. The previous week, he was in on two tackles in a loss to the Cardinals.
Blair’s two sacks in one game almost matched his total over 16 games as a rookie, when he had three.
Blair was just happy he’s able to play again and be part of the team’s first victory under head coach Kyle Shanahan, whose team now is 1-9.
“It feels great because for the longest time I felt like I was letting my guys down sitting back and watching them while I was sitting out with a thumb injury,” Blair told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m just glad to be able to come back into the locker room and celebrate a win with the guys.”
With veteran Elvis Dumervil also getting a sack Sunday, the 49ers provided the type of pressure on an opposing quarterback that mostly has been lacking this season.
Like Blair, Carradine also could return before the end of the season.
Said Shanahan last week, when Blair was activiated: “Tank, he’s still a week or a couple of weeks away from the (activation) window, maybe three weeks away from the window.”
The 49ers have a bye this week. They return to action Sunday Nov. 26 against the Seahawks.