Maiocco's Take: How Will the 49ers Fare Without their Most Irreplaceable Players in Week 2?

Each week, NBC Sports Bay Area 49ers insider Matt Maiocco will preview the upcoming matchup and key storylines heading into Sunday's game. For more takeaways and features from Maiocco, visit

General manager John Lynch and the 49ers personnel department worked hard the past three-plus years to build a roster rich with talent and depth.

So, as the 49ers enter Week 2 of the 2020 season, how would this team fare if it did not have the services of its most irreplaceable players on each side of the ball?

Just wait until Sunday – and perhaps the following week, too. That's when we will all find out.

After all, aside from being great players, All-Pro tight end George Kittle and All-Decade cornerback Richard Sherman bring so much more to the 49ers than on-field production.

Kittle is the heartbeat of the offense. And the all-knowing Sherman is the conscience of the defense.

Neither player will be available when the 49ers take the field Sunday to face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Sherman will miss at least three games while on Injured Reserve with a calf injury. Kittle is week-to-week with a knee sprain.

"Just having him out there, his communication skills and all the things that he does, locker room adjustments on the field, communicating on the sideline," 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said of Sherman. "All those different things. That's where he's better than anybody in football."

Kittle, meanwhile, has such great influence on every aspect of the 49ers' offense.

With the exception of Carolina's 1,000-1,000 running back Christian McCaffrey, no player in football has such a huge impact on his team's passing and running attacks than Kittle.

The 49ers, coming off a 24-20 opening week loss to the Arizona Cardinals, are already experiencing some rough patches coming off a season in which they won the NFC West with a 13-3 record and cruised through the NFC side of the bracket into the Super Bowl.

"I think it's just a good reminder that nothing comes easy in this league," 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "What we were able to do last year, it wasn't easy, man.

"We had to grind every week. There were times when George wasn't in there, and guys like Ross Dwelley had to step up. That's what we expect to happen again."

The 49ers expect fourth-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to step into the starting lineup, opposite of Emmanuel Moseley, and play solid football in Sherman's absence.

But it will take as many as three players to pick up the slack for the pass-catching and blocking that Kittle brings to the 49ers' offense.

Veteran Jordan Reed is the top pass-catcher among the healthy tight ends. Rookie Charlie Woerner has already established himself as a powerful and willing blocker. Dwelley, who started both games Kittle missed last season with knee and ankle injuries, does a little bit of both.

"I'm confident in all three of our guys out there," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "All of them have their traits that they do some things better than others, but all three of them are capable of running, blocking, catching.

"They all can do it all, so it's not like you're going to make any of them just one dimensional. We've got a number of personnel groups, I expect all of them to play more."

Kittle will remain in the Bay Area for a couple of extra days before he joins his teammates in West Virginia, where the 49ers will stay and practice next week in preparation of their Week 3 game against the Giants.

"When guys are out, people step up," Juszczyk said. "We did it a lot last year, so it's something we have experience with."