Standout defensive tackle Bryant Young is likely out six weeks with torn ligaments in his ankle, an obvious blow to the San Francisco 49ers.
A bigger problem, though, is lack of an outside pass rush. The Niners haven't had a consistent one since Charles Haley departed for Dallas.Richard Dent was supposed to solve the problem last year, but got hurt and only played in a couple of games. He has also departed. Rickey Jackson, in his late 30s, isn't the player he used to be at New Orleans.
How bad is the problem? Well, the Niners are counting on Tim Harris to solve it - the same guy who was working a regular job when the 49ers came calling midway through last season when the Dent deal didn't work out.
Harris is serving a six-game suspension for alcohol related problems.
Will he be in any kind of shape to help when he returns Oct. 22 against the Rams?
The Niners got away without a pass rush last year because of outstanding play in the defensive secondary - it was a Prime Time experience.
And while many don't care for Deion Sanders' antics, there may not be a better cover cornerback.
Contrast Sanders' record with that of his replacement, Marquez Pope, who may become known as the human torch if he continues to get burned like he did last Monday night against Scott Mitchell and the Detroit Lions.
The salvation this time for the 49ers may not be a player but a coach. New defensive coordinator Pete Carroll has incorporated a more aggressive style than the 49ers had last year.
By blitzing linebackers and cornerbacks Carroll has made the lack of a solid defensive end less noticeable.
The Niners, led by Dana Stubblefield and Young and linebackers Ken Norton Jr. and Gary Plummer, are the NFL's No. 1 defense against the run, allowing only 39 yards rushing per game. This group held Detroit's Barry Sanders to 24 yards on 17 carries. San Francisco is 25th against the pass, due probably in large part to lack of pressure from the down linemen. Overall San Francisco is ranked seventh defensively.
Will Carroll's aggressive style be enough to overcome the lack of a pass rush and lack of Prime Time? We'll likely find out Nov. 12 at Texas Stadium.
NO APOLOGIES HERE: Those who don't like the violent nature of football should stick to hopscotch or golf, and that includes NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, according to Pittsburg Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd.
Lloyd was fined $12,000 during preseason for a flagrant hit. On Sept. 18, he made good on a vow, knocking Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino from the game. No penalty was called on that hit, nor was disciplinary action taken.
"This isn't one of those games, like the commissioner and all those (others) want it to be," Lloyd told the Associated Press. "They want it to be one of the games you can put on PBS and all the little kids can watch it and they can show it in the classroom.
"It's not a game like that. It's a violent game. It is a game players play with anger, frustration and emotion. And that's how I play the game. If people don't like it, so be it."