Easing or limiting Nick Bosa and Dee Ford is a cautious course of action.
It is also a fairly wise move to make by slow playing these players. The last thing the San Francisco 49ers want to do is give them a heavy workload that only creates a strain on them to be potentially injured again.
However, Kyle Shanahan doesn’t envision a pitch count with Bosa and Ford.
“I don't plan on having a pitch count with guys,” said Shanahan at his Wednesday press conference. “You plan on guys, who you don't play every single play and use them in packages, but there's only so many people up on game day. So the numbers are never set in stone. You have goals with how many times you plan on being in personnel groupings and stuff like that, but it's not like the preseason where you say this guy has eight plays and he's out or this guy has 15.
"It's whatever you have to do to win the game and what you have with your eligibles and packages. But those guys have been on pace to get to this game and play at a high level. And I love how they’ve looked in training camp. And hopefully they'll continue, have three good days of practice, and have a good game on Sunday.”
Now do not get it twisted, the 49ers are not going to run Bosa and Ford into the ground. Like Shanahan said, they have an idea how much playing time someone is going to get based on the amount of packages and groupings they’re counting on. But if the game were to get drawn out, and let’s say they want 15 snaps out of Ford, then they probably do not roll him out into the fourth-quarter.
With Ford, I’d suspect that the 49ers want him back to what he averaged in 2019, which was 20 snaps per game. His range is also looking like 15-25 snaps again as he did in 2019 outside of the opening game. It’s a way to keep him fresh, efficient, and less likely to sustain injury. For the 49ers sake, they should be well ahead by the time they’re into the third quarter to ensure any unnecessary snaps for Ford.
As for Bosa, the same idea would apply as with Ford. They’re going to copy and paste their 2019 approach into 2021. Bosa started 2019 with an ankle injury and was rolled out for 30-40 snaps for the first three games. Once the 49ers went into their bye week, it allowed Bosa to heal and take on more of a heftier workload. He started seeing his snaps take up 80 percent or more of the defensive playing time.
Ultimately, there has to be some care from the 49ers’ perspective when it comes to handling Ford and Bosa. But they cannot be too cautious. At some point, they just have to let these guys be football players and dominate.