While rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown was ruled out of the 49ers’ Week 17 game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, veteran Logan Ryan is in line to make his first start in red and gold.
Ryan’s ability to transition smoothly into San Francisco’s secondary is exactly why coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch decided to sign him in early December after injuries to Talanoa Hufanga and George Odum. And now that Brown is sidelined with a sprained knee, Ryan is the next man up at safety.
“I’m really happy that we have him right now,” Shanahan told Greg Papa in the latest “49ers Game Plan” episode. “I didn’t know (Ryan), but I played against him a lot and I always had a lot of respect playing against him. I thought he was a very good player.
“(He) always seemed like one of the smartest players on the field.”
Once Hufanga and Odum were injured, the 49ers knew Brown, despite his youth, was ready to replace him. But with little safety experience on the roster beyond that, Shanahan said the team immediately targeted Ryan. The safety was on a cruise with his family when the 49ers came calling, and now, a few weeks later, he will have the chance to make a positive impact for San Francisco on Sunday at FedExField.
“You’re always one injury away from a guy who’s not ready to compete in really impactful games and play a starting position,” Shanahan told Papa. “And you can do it with a few rookies and all that, but it gets harder and harder, and you always hope there’s a guy with experience who can do it.”
During an interview with KNBR on Friday, before Brown was officially ruled out for Sunday’s game, Lynch explained why he had confidence in Ryan’s ability to take on an increased role.
“It’s good to have a guy who has a lot of versatility under his belt,” Lynch told KNBR. “…It’s nice that if Ji’Ayir can’t go, you can turn to a guy like Logan Ryan and feel very comfortable with what you have there.”
Shanahan told reporters Friday that Brown has a “chance” to return for the 49ers’ regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium next weekend. But in the meantime, he knows Ryan is more than capable of replacing him.
“Just us playing against him, he always seemed like a very aware, smart player and a guy that had a lot of experience playing with a lot of different defenses,” Shanahan told reporters. “We brought him here when we had some injuries. Since he’s been here, he’s looked exactly like we hoped he would. Now that we’ve had those injuries, he’s playing that role.
“He looks exactly like we were hoping for. He’s very comfortable and knows what he’s doing, and the game isn’t too big for him.”
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