Riding a three-game winning streak, the San Francisco 49ers are the hottest team in the NFC. This has led to a great deal of optimism from the fan base, many of whom came up with several interesting questions to ponder for this week’s mailbag. How the 49ers deal with the rash of injuries suffered against Minnesota certainly was a central theme this week.
I don’t see Lance getting into a game anytime soon, barring an injury or complete ineptitude from Jimmy Garoppolo.
Kyle Shanahan was asked about this yesterday and he went into detail about the challenges changing quarterbacks mid game presents to him as a play caller:
“We still always have that stuff up and always carry it, but it’s been more about me. Like to tell you the truth, in terms of just calling plays. We get into a rhythm of attacking a defense and what fronts they’re playing, what coverages and so every play kind of plays off the next play and you get a feel. Our players do and I, of kind of what we’re going to. What’s been hard on me, that I didn’t realize, is when you do bring in a quarterback who gets a different set of plays, then it’s almost like it’s the first play I’ve been seeing of a new defense. Because now yeah, you see what fronts the coverages are doing, but they’re doing it completely to a plan of a threat as a runner at the position. So, I don’t know what to anticipate with it. And then I’ve got to stay in it for a while to get a feel for that. And then when you go back, that feels kind of off for the last guy. So, it kind of hurts my rhythm a little bit of understanding what the defense is getting. And that’s why I personally, as the year has gone, I’ve gotten a little bit more away from it because I like to get a feel for what that defense is doing.”
Dre Greenlaw is listed as day-to-day, so they hope to have him available for Sunday. Marcell Harris is currently injured as well and is in the concussion protocol. That leaves Azeez Al-Shaair, Demtrius Flannagan-Fowles, and Tyrell Adams as the only healthy linebackers this week.
The 49ers defense has been helped immensely from the offense dominating time of possession these last three weeks. They may need to keep this up for the for the next couple weeks until Warner can get healthy.
If it were my decision, I would plan on using the big nickel package as my base defense with Talanoa Hufanga as the nickel/third linebacker. San Francisco has done this a number of times in the past, and as we saw early in the second quarter against Minnesota, the rookie is much better down in the box than he is when asked to cover space.
Barring an injury, I wouldn’t expect to see either of the rookies in the starting lineup again this season. Daniel Brunskill continues to struggle with a bull rush in pass protection, but Kyle Shanahan has been able to scheme around this for the most part over the last five weeks.
Jaylon Moore had the opportunity to start two games at right tackle after Mike McGlinchey went down for the season, however Tom Compton proved to be more consistent and replaced Moore in the starting lineup against Minnesota.
Keep an eye on Brunskill and Compton this week in Seattle. With Deebo Samuel out, their jobs are about to get a lot tougher.
I think the loss of Deebo Samuel is a major blow to the offense. During the course of the team winning four of its last five games, Samuel has made at least one explosive play in each of the victories. These plays have covered up deficiencies in other areas of the offense, and this injury will force every offensive player to step up their play.
Elijah Mitchell has been very impressive this season, but he doesn’t have the same type of burst as Samuel, none of the 49ers skill position players do. That includes Brandon Aiyuk. I would argue that Aiyuk has the best hands on the team, but he’s not the same type of thread as Samuel with the ball in his hands.
Aside from the great playmaking ability of Samuel, over the last three weeks Kyle Shanahan has been able to dictate the flow of the game using personnel. The versatility of Deebo Samuel, Jeff Wilson Jr, Kyle Juszczyk, and George Kittle has allowed Shanahan to be run almost a postionless offense. If he can figure out a way to keep that flow going without Samuel, the 49ers may be ok.
Something tells me that George Kittle is about to have a big game. With the exception of his fumble early against Arizona, Kittle has been playing well since returning from injury. His ability to make plays with the ball in his hands should come into play against Seattle.