Preseason has come and gone. The roster has been set. All that’s left for the 49ers is to focus on the season ahead which will kick off Sunday against the Chicago. As we wrap up Labor Day weekend, now is the perfect time to make some bold predictions.
Here are my five bold predictions for 2022.
1.) Jeff Wilson Jr. will lead the 49ers in rushing touchdowns.
When Jeff Wilson Jr. is healthy, he is one of the best running backs on the 49ers roster, especially in short yardage situations. In 2020, Wilson led the team in rushing touchdowns with seven.
Wilson is healthy to open this season. This has shown on the practice field and during his lone appearance in the preseason.
The explosiveness and power are back in Wilson’s legs, and he will once again find his way to the endzone often.
2.) The defense will record the most sacks in a season under Kyle Shanahan.
The 49ers defense has twice recorded 48 sacks in a season during the Kyle Shanahan era, 2019 and 2021. They appear primed to top that total this season.
Nick Bosa is coming off a 15.5 sack season, and wrecked training camp practices on a regular basis.
Joining Bosa along the starting defensive line will be Samson Ebukam, Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw.
Armstead has recorded six or more sacks in each of the two seasons he’s played alongside Bosa.
On the opposite side is Ebukam, who is looking to surpass 4.5 sacks for the first time in is career. If he finally gets more than 51% of the defensive snaps he will get there.
Javon Kinlaw is set for a breakout season. The 2020 first round draft pick is as healthy as he’s been since joining the team. He finally feels good and has looked strong throughout training camp and preseason.
In addition to the starting lineup, San Francisco’s defensive line is one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL. With players such as Kevin Givens, Charles Omenihu, rookie Drake Jackson, Kerry Hyder Jr., and Jordan Willis rotating in the 49ers come at opposing offenses in waves.
3.) The 49ers will throw for fewer yards than a season ago.
Last season the 49ers threw for 4,221 yards. They won’t reach that total this season, and it isn’t a bad thing.
San Francisco’s offense was at its best in 2021 when it was able to stay committed to the run. This played a large role in turning a 3-5 start into a 10-7 record and trip to the NFC Championship Game.
Focusing on the run was also the formula the 49ers offense carried into both starts for Trey Lance.
In the two games started by Lance last season the 49ers ran the ball 54% of the time with Lance throwing an average of 26 times. Putting those together with Lance’s completion percentage and yards per attempt, the total passing yards comes to 3,785. That yardage total would be solid for a first year starting quarterback.
4.) Deebo Samuel will surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the second year in a row.
The season Deebo Samuel put together in 2021 was second only to Jerry Rice in total yards from scrimmage for a 49er’s wide receiver. In fact, Samuel was on pace to have the second highest receiving yards total in San Francisco history until circumstances forced him to spend more time at running back.
Samuel started out slow after missing the beginning of camp due to a contract dispute with the 49ers. Even with this, the fourth year wideout showed he is still one to be reckoned with.
Samuel is a threat to score any time he gets the ball in his hands. He is going to help Trey Lance just like he did Jimmy Garoppolo.
5.) The defense will record the most interceptions in a season since 2014.
The 2014 49ers recorded 23 interceptions. Under the current regime, San Francisco’s defense has not topped 12 in a season. That will change this year.
Nothing drives up interception totals more than a strong pass rush and tight coverage. The pass rush was detailed earlier. The tight coverage will come from free agent acquisition Charvarius Ward at cornerback to go along with Emmanuel Moseley.
In addition to Ward and Moseley on the outside, the 49ers improved their pass coverage in the slot when they selected Samuel Womack it the fifth round. The rookie has shown the ability to be around the ball.
On the back end of the defense is Talanoa Hufanga. The second-year safety was a ball hawk during his time at USC. This has transferred over to training camp this season as Hufanga steps in to replace Jaquiski Tartt.