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Injury to Ian Williams May Have Bigger Impact for the San Francisco 49ers Than Week 2 Loss

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COMMENTARY | The San Francisco 49ers may have suffered a second consecutive blowout loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday night, but injuries to the defending conference champions may be a bigger concern moving forward.

From rookie safety Eric Reid suffering a concussion and starting tight end Vernon Davis being hobbled by a hamstring injury to defensive lineman Ray McDonald showing signs of being hurt throughout the game, it was more like a MASH unit than anything else.

While San Francisco may have dodged a bullet with those injuries, it did lose starting nose tackle Ian Williams with what appears to be a season-ending ankle injury. According to Pro Football Talk, the third-year defender from Notre Dame broke his ankle.

Considering that the 49ers placed rookie linebacker Nick Moody on IR with a designation to return, they cannot do the same with Williams. This means that the stout run defender will likely miss the season.

[Related: Seahawks take upper hand in NFL's best rivalry]

San Francisco let both Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois walk in free agency with the idea that Williams would be able to fill the void. This is exactly what the youngster did throughout training camp and the preseason. In fact, reports from around camp indicated that Williams was performing much better than those of us on the outside had originally believed he would.

The strength of San Francisco's defense has been its front seven, which has helped put up one of the best units against the run in the entire league. Once Williams went down in the first half against Seattle on Sunday, he was replaced by free-agent acquisition Glenn Dorsey, who is a downgrade against the run. Pretty much on cue, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch found more holes to run through once Williams went down. The veteran finished just two yards shy of the 100-yard plateau and helped set the pace for Seattle's offense as the game went on.

Could this be a continuing theme for the 49ers defense moving forward? Who will step up and replace Williams against the run? Will they look at a watered-down free-agent market?

These are questions that will have to be answered sooner rather than later.

Casey Hampton and Corey Williams are two of the bigger names remaining on the open market. It remains to be seen if San Francisco will show any type of interest in them or if they have any interest in playing this season.

The good news here is that San Francisco isn't exactly going up against the best ground games in the NFL over the next two weeks. It takes on the Indianapolis Colts, who lost Vick Ballard to a season-ending injury, before traveling to take on the St. Louis Rams in Week 4.

[Related: Seahawks' Richard Sherman acknowledges former coach after beatdown]

This gives defensive coordinator Vic Fangio an opportunity to get things figured out. The primary issue here is that San Francisco doesn't necessarily have a ton of in-house options. As mentioned before, Dorsey will see the bulk of the action with Williams out. Tony Jerod-Eddie, who was a healthy scratch on Sunday, is pretty much the limit of San Francisco's depth there. Again, this could mean that it looks at external options to fill the void.

Either way you look at it, losing Williams to a potential season-ending injury has more long-term ramifications than a blowout Week 2 loss.

Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.

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