Issac Sopoaga's Absence Significant For 49ers Strong Rush Defense

The 49ers haven't been the luckiest team when it comes to injuries in 2011, but they're not the worst off, either. Starting wide receiver and big free agent acquisition, Braylon Edwards, has missed the last two games and is going to miss even more, he's already been ruled out against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So has fullback Moran Norris, meaning Bruce Miller will have to take his spot again. But these are all things we knew coming into this week ... the 49ers had always been preparing to be without these guys against Tampa Bay.

Now they might be without another guy, judging by the injury report. Defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga didn't practice, and may have a staph infection. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says as much, claiming that Sopoaga has already been ruled out for Sunday's game at Candlestick Park. It's a big deal for the 49ers, who have enjoyed strong defensive line play for the season.

Sopoaga's 2010 season at left defensive end is what gave the 49ers a lot of confidence in him, and so far he'd lent himself to the team's fourth-ranked rushing defensive in a big way. Unlike his first few seasons in the NFL, Sopoaga has been playing strong and hard-nosed football, and his absence will be a big hit. On the plus side, it's a chance to see more of Ricky Jean Francois, a player who fans feel good about as a potential future starter. Sopoaga's absence also likely means that Ian Williams will be active and backing up Jean Francois, and with Will Tukuafu going to injured reserve, it could also mean that DeMarcus Dobbs is activated to get some playing time on the defensive line as well.

Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Mike Iupati and Adam Snyder were also limited, though they're all expected to play. Crabtree and Gore both had nagging injuries and it's best to just go slow with them - especially Gore, who doesn't need all of the practice time that others might need. The 49ers really need to make sure Iupati doesn't hurt his neck again, considering he's the team's best offensive lineman by far. And with Edwards out, they seriously need Crabtree to not aggravate the injury in his foot.

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