Five 49ers who have a lot to prove against Rams

San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (22) runs against the Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Forget the Rams.

Sunday’s game means nothing to them. They’re going to the playoffs and resting their stars against the 49ers. Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan won’t play. They don’t have anything to play for.

This game is all about the 49ers.

The Niners want to win, no matter what the Rams want to do. A win would give the Niners momentum heading into 2018. A loss to the Rams B-team would be devastating.

Each player on the 49ers is playing for his career this Sunday, trying to prove he belongs with the 49ers next season and into the future.

These are the five players with the most to prove.

Click here to read the rest of my Week 17 preview.

This article has 61 Comments

  1. But…what if the Niners play their B-team too? There’s a strong argument for seeing what they have in their backups by playing them agains another NFL team, albeit one without their All-Pros in the game.

  2. I seriously doubt a meaningless game against backups will have much impact on front office decisions. Especially re; Lynch (gone), Thomas and JG (not gone). Hyde is by no means worse than Breida, whose stats were inflated by one run.

    1. Agreed. Lynch is gone, Breida is not starting back material (great backup), Garoppolo has already shown everything he needs to how to coaches. Naysayers, just hate the Niners or are jealous we found a franchise QB (I.e. seahawk fans), Lastly, this idea the Solomon Thomas could be a bust after year one is kooky. Makes me question GC knowledge. Generally, one of the hardest positions to transition from in college to pros is D line. They need a year to get stronger and develop technique. You can judges a DL after year two…MAYBE. Some take longer to develop. First year? No way, no how. Anyone who reports on NFL should know that. Basic stuff.

      1. He’s just trying to rile people. It’s Grant’s way. Solomon Thomas has been somewhat of a disappointment though. Does that mean he won’t improve? No. But this year he has been less than stellar.

      2. What about guys like Suh and Kearse????? Thomas was the 3rd selection in the first round!! Suh was the 2nd overall pick and Kearse was the 16th in the first round…….Kearse started all 16 games; had 57 tackles and 14.5 sacks; 8 forced fumbles and 9 passes defensed. Suh had 10 sacks, 1 INT, 66 tackles, 49 unassisted…….

        The reason I mention both is that Kearse played primarily outside his rookie year while Suh played inside, and the Niners has used Thomas both inside and outside.

        Not close to Suh and light years away from Kearse’s rookie productivity………..

        1. I actually expect Thomas to have one of his best games tommorow. But yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever see him as #3 worthy. Solid player at best, maybe a Pro Bowl alternate due to injury a couple of times.

    2. Hofer—Some of you people have such double standards. You were probably going banana’s when Hyde had that big game against Seattle . Yes the one where he went over 120 yards. He had two big runs , both untouched till he was tackled. The one for 61- he was caught from behind. Another was for 30+. He had a third as well but that only went for around 8. The rest were for no gains or loses. Still even in that game Breida had a higher average per carry than Hyde.

      I have closely watched not only the final stats but the opportunities each player had in each game. Probably because he had more carried, Hyde had far more opportunities for big gains ( large running lanes ) than Brieda did. Even that big touchdown run in the last game ,you discount, was an end run created by his speed and not a bit running lane. A player without his speed would not have been able to make that run.

      As Shanahan often says ” I judge players not on their stats, but what they do with the opportunities presented to them”. You have used Breida’s big run to negate his yds per carry in this game, yet Hyde had many more long runs than Breida did this season because he was presented with many more open lanes to run through, yet Breida still had a higher average per carry. Look up Hydes 20 plus yards runs this season. It’s not even close.

  3. Personally, if I were Shanahan, and Garoppolo plays well in the first half, I’d sit him the rest of the game. First, it’s kind of like an FU to the Rams for playing no one, and second, it limits possibility of Garoppolo getting injured.

    1. I get what you say about injury but don’t you think there is no better training then game time training? Jimmy G still has a lot to learn about Shanahan’s offence and trying things out in a game that doesn’t matter is the best type of practice. Same as pre season. I think Shanahan will use the time wisely as he seems to be that type of guy.

  4. Loss to Rams would be devastating? Really Grant? Check the definition of devastating. Unless there are career ending injuries to two or three key 9er players, the results of the Rams game will be in the rear view mirror very, very quickly.

    You say… “If Garoppolo lays an egg on Sunday, people may start to wonder about him.” Well, you certainly will. You assert he needs to (NEEDS TO!!) do many things–to keep you off his back?

    Oh… Is Shanahan a bona fide HC yet?

  5. I really don’t care what they do . As long as they get Jimmy G to a long term deal. I was reading the other day on this sight, that there is a possibility Jimmy could end up back in New England a lot would have to happen,but you guys know what a sneaky guy Belichek is. I’m just real uneasy that organisation giving Jimmy for a second round pick. There are a lot of teams right now that would give up two first round picks for him. I’m going to feel better when we got him locked down. It dose look like he feels the love the fans are giving him!!!! Can’t wait till next year!!!

    1. Why would JG go back to NE? He has a far better long term situation here in SF. He gets to live in the Bay Area ( sans NE winter weather ), He is on a team that has a huge amount of resources to build a team around him for long term success. He has a coach and GM with long term contracts (stability). He gets to play in a system that make even average QB’s look like hall of fame’rs. He and Shanahan have really good chemistry. There is also a question as to how long BB will continue to coach or Tom Brady will play. I think they leave together. The fact that they chose a 40 year old man over him also speaks volumes. Why would he want to follow and constantly be compared to Brady, when in SF he comes in as the savior. Montana and Young are to far in the past for such a comparison. In NE he is Tom Brady’s replacement. In SF he is the man.

  6. I like how you keep gumming about Solomon Thomas and you don’t explain all the facts. You always fail to mention that Thomas didn’t have a full off season because of academic obligations. He must ota’s and minicamp. Plus, he started late in training for contract reasons. Let’s see how well he does after a full off season program

      1. Wasn’t it Aaron who blamed it on his wife? Or at least her pregnancy?
        Aaron’s a guy who needs push ups, but he needs push backs more…….
        ….push back from the table and quit munching.

  7. Thomas and Garoppolo are not playing for their careers Sunday. They won’t be cut and never find work if they don’t play well in one game. As to their future on this team being impacted by one game, nope. Thomas will be here for 2 or more seasons, if not longer. When they’re deciding if they should give him an extension, they will look at his entire body of work with the team, not just one game from his rookie season. Similar thing with JG. They’re not going to try to trade JG if he lays an egg tommorow. It might make them more inclined to tag him. If they tag him, they will decide if they want to extend him after next season. That decision wouldn’t be based on one game against the Rams.

  8. Both me and SFs OL are glad Aaron Donald is not playing tomorrow, but who else on their D is sitting? They’re not exactly lying down. Besides, this will give Coach Phillips a chance to test JG in anticipation of years to come.
    McVay is competitive and will try to get his deuces (and plenty of starters) going. Who sits besides Goff and Gurley?
    In one sense everybody is playing for their job, but exaggerated on Thomas and Jimmy Grappa.

    1. Here’s what I found.

      “so Coach Sean McVay made the prudent decision to rest Goff, running back Todd Gurley, offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and others.

      “McVay did not disclose the full list of players who will miss Sunday’s game, but it also stands to include offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, linebackers Mark Barron, Alec Ogletree, Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn, plus receiver Cooper Kupp, who aggravated a knee injury last week against Tennessee.”

      Not sure about the players in the second paragraph. They could see limited action.

      1. Perhaps McVay will also rest himself and won’t show up for the game. Instead he might just go on a picnic with his family.. lol.

    1. hey Razor, here’s something you’d appreciate. Cam Inman reports that the O line coach John Benton played guitar to AC/DC’s Back in Black while the players stretched for practice. He got a ‘stretching’ ovation.

  9. The loss would be devastating but not for your reasons. It’d be devastating because it’d be the first time we went 0-6 in the division. Mentally it would hang over the coaches and front office so I believe we will kick the crap out of them, so much so I picked up the niners D for my fantasy championship

  10. Grant: Why aren’t you a national sports reporter for a major publication or website yet? It’s easy. All you have to do is write better. Duh.

    Seriously though, either you don’t understand or have zero respect for the intricacies of technique in football. Or you’re desperately trying to write with some sort of “style” or “slant” or “in-your-face” tone to mask your deficiencies as an analyst and a writer.

    1. Q. “Grant: Why aren’t you a national sports reporter for a major publication or website yet? It’s easy. All you have to do is write better. ”

      A. His dad does not own a Major National Publication or Website.

    2. Grant is auditioning for one of Dan Patrick’s Danett’s positions–a rumored opening this spring. A year or two of that and he’s taking Colin Cowherd’s perch.

    3. Miguel- Some of you guys act like it takes a lot of smarts to be a national sports reporter. Have you even followed these guys? If the criteria for getting a job were smarts then our country would be in far worse shape than even I imagined. We would presently be living out the movie ” Idiocracy”.

  11. Pretty sure a loss does not discount Jimmy G’s performance so far as a Niner as “meaningless”.

    What he’s done so far is pretty remarkable win lose or draw tomorrow.

  12. I’m going to try to be nice here… This is the dumbest tripe I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. I really don’t understand why you wrote something so stupid. The line about Solomon Thomas is condescending and rude for no purpose whatsoever. Grow up.

  13. Shanahan said Saleh will be back next year and he probably has earned that with the way they have improved and the lack of depth and talent. Think there will be changes with some position coaches? The team was behind the 8 ball trying to complete their staff with KS coaching in the super bowl. Would like to see Bryant young come back and be an assistant DL coach.

    1. Buttttttt, you Know the posters that said, “Vic Fangio will be our d coordinator next year, book it”, they are flying around here somewhere. Just can’t put the razor on it… Oh well, we all say crazy things.

  14. It’s hard to know players’ intentions.
    PFT report quotes Reid as saying as he goes into FA he knows some teams will have a problem with his anthem protests, but he’s ok with that. Notable: a seeming assumption that he won’t be back with SF who never gave him or Kap or anybody any grief over their statements.
    Meanwhile, Hyde makes comments about SF SB next year, as though he hopes to be here. I also don’t think Shanahan/Lynchnare hatin’ on Hyde like bloggers.

    1. Shanahan was not happy with Hyde’s comment. And being realistic is not hatin.
      Using the term “hater” on anyone that doe not agree with you is a real cop out. If I were to be guilty of “hatin” on anyone it would have been Trent Baalke. I started on him during the 2013 preseason. Saying I was “Hatin’ would have been correct because my perspective was based on red flags about his character and little fact. The criticism about Hyde is mostly based on stats and logic.

      To me using the term ” hater” implies making criticisms personal and not making objective points about their role as players.

  15. With so many Rams not playing, it will be interesting to see if our guys come out too cocky like Jax did last week. KS getting the team to not take the Rams for granted would bode well for us in future “trap” games when we’re in contention.

  16. As Ronnie would shout “It’s RAMS week”!! Don’t care which Rams’ players they play as long as Niners stomp on them. As a young Raiders’ fan, Grant can’t quite appreciate the deep, historically simmering antipathy that a Niners’ fan feels for the Rams. Anyway, this article is really a weak effort from Grant.

    As a contrast, here’s an very good overview of the Niners-Rams rivalry by Jerry Mc over at Merc.

    1. Mood

      Nice post on SF_RAMS rivalry…I remember being a ‘hater’ of Elroy ‘Crazylegs’ Hirsch, ‘Tank’ Younger, even Otto Graham ‘Dutchman’…AND HE WAS A DUCK…!

      1. Oregon
        Norm Van Brocklin was “The Dutchman” for the Rams. Otto Graham played for the Browns. Dutchman could sling it around real good and retired after he lead the Eagles past Lombardi’s Packers for the championship.

          1. I lived near Philly when Dutchman went there in trade and it was when, as just a pup, I began following pro ball. The Eagles players and press all thought he was arrogant, but he made them relavent.
            I knew you had the right guy in mind.

  17. 1. Bourne is slow and was caught from behind. Any WR with decent speed and that was a TD. I can’t see him with any real future in the NFL.

    2. Brieda has every chance to start next year and I expect it. Hyde has more explosives per carry than Brieda. But Breida is more consistent. Hyde has not played well this year after being a solid, Top-15 (advanced metrics) kind of guy so I doubt the 49ers will invest in him. Brieda projects out (advanced metrics, again), based on his 90+ carries to be a Top-20 back. Breida has substantially out-performed Hyde, this year, in the passing game. That’s not saying much, btw. But, to be fair, both Hyde and Brieda had some seriously lousy QBing which affected their advanced metrics since you can’t completely separate QBing from receiving.

    3. Lynch is done. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the inactive list.

    4. You’re still a fool when it comes to Thomas. Thomas is tied for 7th in sacks for 2017 rookies. It takes most rookies at least a year, some times two or three, to learn how to pass rush. We’ll know sometime in 2019 whether he’ll be a good pass rusher or not.

    As it is, he has as many sacks as Warren Sapp, and many other NFL pass-rushing terrors, did as rookies. So, really, give it a ****ing rest already as you clearly don’t follow player developmental profiles and have unrealistic expectations.

    Also, why not crap on Buckner? Thomas has as many sacks. Seriously, if you’re going to crap, crap on Buckner too… He’s not getting the sacks and has gone backwards from last year… Only I doubt you have the stones for that because you know we’d treat you like a fool.

    5. Oh, please. If he had enough passes to qualify Jimmy G. would be the #5 rated passer in the NFL. And he’s protected by a porous line and is mostly throwing to rookies & scrubs. The fact is, his resume is strong enough that a bad game isn’t going to take the shine off his penny.

    1. MosesZD

      Until you got to your #5, I disagree with your entire post…which I’m sure you’ll agree…I usually agree almost entirely with you….
      1. Bourne is NOT slow…name one WR who has never been caught from behind…
      2. Brieda is a boy among men, and any good coach will study him, and defeat him…
      3. Not too much to say about Aaron Lynch except that people have been trying to bury him forever…I think he needs some good coaching…
      4. So I’m a fool…Thomas made a fool of JLynch…I don’t believe that he’ll ever be more than a journeyman…certainly not a #3 overall…and you are a fool for even equating Thomas to Buckner…He’s half the reason Buckner has gone backwards…Playing Blair instead of Solomon will up Bucckner’s game…

  18. Hyde might not be back but Brieda I think is in the same boat. He’s basically too slow and needs more strength. Joe Williams is what Shanny is looking for in a RB-quick, explosive. Bourne shows he can play but he’ll have competition. Lynch is history. Solomon will move inside and be more effective. I think TE’s are vulnerable. Not much athleticism or speed from Kittle or Celek.. Coyle too slow.. O line guards, center, good bye.. CB’s needed..

    1. Breida is too slow? If Breida is slow then Hyde must be a turtle. Actually even Hyde is not slow for a Rb, it is just that Breida is obviously faster.

  19. Grant… We, the Niners, are a team full of backups… Jimmy has been playing with house money, because he’s beating decent teams with a team full of b and c list players. Nothing NEGATIVE can come from us losing to another b list team. Your opinion of your own thinking is nuts. Grow up, get over it. This niner team has already accomplished so much since Jimmy has became the starter. They are playing to fight and win, not to prove to you that they belong. Or to prove to you that if they lose, the rain clouds will show. Wow, ego trip much?

  20. This game means nothing to Niners other then keeping the win streak alive. Please nobody get hurt!!!

    1. Bourne is a rookie WR making the most out of his opportunity. We don’t see coaches tape or no the play calls so not sure if he is separating or understanding assignment. He is not that tall and is a possesion WR period. I say if he can prove himself to make the tough catches and plug into that role that’s great b/c we don’t have to go after Landry out of Miami. Pierre, Bourne, Robinson should be just fine.

    2. Breida is a third down back and back up. If he was anything more like Hunt, Kumara then he would have already shown that already. He’s good. We need another RB with size. And a good backup. Is the kid out of Utah going to develop? Or do we draft Love in the second round. I think we have NO’s pick. Anyway you get me drift, I hope.

    3. Lynch is a disappointment at this time. Maybe he hit his peak and knows if he puts his best diet and work ethic in. He will only be a 6-7 sack guy with holes elsewhere. I think he is done with Niners.

    4. S. Thomas is and always will be a tweeter. Can he excel in a specific area??? I have my doubts. This game means nothing for him at this point. I just think he needs to go into the offseason a full in imjured offseason and build himself up. See what he has next year. We should have a good sense of where he is end of season next year. I have my doubts.

    5. JG can lay an egg today and brush it off and the team brush it off and still have momentum into offseason and next year. It would be cool to say he is still undefeated. But is this really a must win game…naaaahhh.

    Go Niners.

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