07 Oct 49ers: At The Quarter Point
After four games, the 2020 NFL season for the San Francisco 49ers, appropriately dubbed “the revenge tour“, is off to a hopeful yet inauspicious beginning considering their somewhat disappointing 2-2 record. The New York/New Jersey roadie compiled a couple wins, thoroughly outplaying the Jets and Giants. The home-opener against Arizona and their most recent defeat against Philadelphia have pinpointed some big question marks moving forward, most notably containing mobile quarterbacks and the barrage of key injuries at several important positions.
We all know injuries are a part of the game. It affects the team’s outlook, prospects and even our fantasy teams. To say the 49ers have got the injury bug would be an understatement with a multitude of key contributors sidelined, culminating in Solomon Thomas and Nick Bosa lost for the season with torn ACLs. Throw in Richard Sherman, Dre Greenlaw, K’Waun Williams, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert and Ziggy Ansah (who replaced Bosa) having already missed some time in the first month, and one could argue that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch’s biggest challenge up to this point has been fielding a healthy team.
The losses to Arizona and Philadelphia have some common denominators, in particular with the quarterback play. Jimmy Garoppolo missed some important throws late in the opener. Meanwhile, Nick Mullens, who played a near flawless game against the Giants, struggled mightily versus the Eagles with poor decision-making, including a brutal pick-six that essentially iced the game. C.J. Beathard, who hasn’t seen the field in more than a year, played some inspired ball to lead the 49ers in a comeback attempt. With Garoppolo suffering a high ankle sprain against the Jets and practicing in a limited capacity today. In the event he cant go versus Miami, the short-term answer at quarterback is definitely up in the air. Does Shanahan favor the experience with Mullens, in spite of a bad game? Or roll with Beathard? We’ll know more this week.
What seems clear so far is the 49ers struggle to contain mobile quarterbacks. Kyler Murray and Carson Wentz certainly didn’t have the sexiest statistics, but made their mark by escaping the pocket, extending plays by rushing for clutch yards and throwing on the run. Although the D-Line has been decimated, D.J. Jones and Kevin Givens have shown flashes, while Kerry Hyder Jr has been excellent. The issue is containing the edges, while maintaining a consistent pass rush in certain down and distance situations. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the starter this week, and presuming the possibility he stinks it up early, don’t be surprised if Tua Tagovailoa makes an appearance this week. The 49ers will be significantly tested in upcoming weeks with the schedule stiffening dramatically in weeks 6-8: home vs. Rams, at New England and Seattle.
2-2 is not a difficult record to recover from, but given the injuries, some erratic and lackluster play at quarterback, offensive line and secondary along with quality upcoming opponents, it is what is: average. For a team coming into the season with a talented roster in hopes to making another deep playoff run, Kyle Shanahan’s squad has definitely dealt with immense adversity. However, reinforcements are returning sooner than later. Sherman, Coleman, Mostert, Richburg, Witherspoon and Greenlaw should provide the stability needed to improve. With the aggressive style of John Lynch signing reinforcements when necessary coupled with one of the more creative offensive minds in head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have the brain trust to right the ship. Plenty of football remains. And it starts this week against Miami.