After 49ers linebacker Malcolm Smith was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, the 49ers began giving first-team reps on the weak side of their defense to both rookie Reuben Foster and Ray-Ray Armstrong.
Foster began to get more of those reps after a short time and he got the nod to start against the Chiefs in the team’s first preseason game, which gave a strong hint about who had taken over the starting job. Coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed that the first-round pick is the first man up while speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
“He started the last game, he’s been starting out in these practices,” Shanahan said, via ESPN.com. “He’s been getting most of the reps, which I believe he needs. But by no means … he can get beat out at any time with our guys behind him. We’ve got some good guys behind him too. If they start performing at a higher level than him, that wouldn’t be the case.”
The reality for every player in the NFL is that they are only a starter until the team finds someone who they believe can do a better job, but it’s hard to imagine Foster’s rise into the starting lineup will be a short-lived one. The team made it clear that they thought highly of him heading into the draft and his play thus far has done nothing to lead them to rethink that appraisal of a player who appears set to join third overall pick Solomon Thomas as a defensive fixture right off the bat.