Question 1: It’s that time of the season when injuries are imperative for every team. What’s the latest on banged-up 49ers, including Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams?
The bye week was much-needed for San Francisco, but of course that also applies to the Jags who got an extra week of rest and chance to heal up. Deebo Samuel is “on track to play” Sunday and is expected to be a full participant this week in practice following the hairline fracture in his shoulder which kept him out of the last two contests. Trent Williams suffered a high ankle sprain in the loss to Cleveland but played through it, knowing the matchup with Myles Garrett would be crucial to San Francisco’s chances. His status is still up in the air with the team optimistic the 35-year-old can get at least a limited practice in before traveling to Jacksonville. Starting guard Aaron Banks is dealing with a toe injury and was also a non-participant on Wednesday, as was WR Ray-Ray McLoud. The possibility of the left side of the Niners offensive line being unavailable for this game is certainly worrisome.
Q2: This is a safe space — tell us how Niners Nation feels about Brock Purdy.
I think Niners Nation is cautiously optimistic about Brock Purdy. He hasn’t even started a full season slate of games so I think any definitive statement regarding his play is a bit overkill at the moment. However, it wouldn’t be dramatic to say he is the best QB Kyle Shanahan has had as the head coach in San Francisco and that most fans believe he has the ability and calmness to take this loaded roster to the Super Bowl. Even during the losing streak, there has been a lot of positive play from the quarterback position. This fan base isn’t blind. We know he doesn’t have the physical traits like Mahomes or Allen (or Lawrence). But he is aggressive in pushing the ball downfield, which is something we haven’t gotten much of the past few seasons, and he will take his chances in tight coverage. He’s more athletic and mobile when he needs to be than Jimmy G ever was. Overall, Niners Nation is happy but know this organization is all in -- and if the ultimate goal isn’t reached, everyone’s limitations will be magnified, including Purdy.
Q3: How does this year’s version of the defense under Steve Wilks compare to last year’s version under DeMeco Ryans?
So far it’s been a disappointing start to the Wilks regime. We are a spoiled bunch. We expect domination following the past few seasons under Ryans and before him Saleh. So even though the unit is top 5 in points per game allowed, it feels like there is so much more potential not being reached. For example, even though they’ve allowed only the fourth-lowest rushing yards per game, they are giving up over four yards a carry, which is league average. The defensive line received heaps of praise heading into the season but their 18 total sacks is 24th in the NFL. So while it’s been a good unit still, it hasn’t matched expectations and I know some fans are ready to cut the cord with Wilks already. I think that’s a bit extreme, but it is concerning that this talented of a roster has gotten manhandled during the three-game skid. Wilks will be moving from the box down to the field to call the defense starting this week, and I am hopeful it’s what can turn the tide for this group.
Q4: What’s the best way to beat San Francisco on both sides of the ball?
To beat the offense, win on first and second down. They are successful on third down - their 46.4 conversion rate is fourth in the NFL. But, the Niners have the least amount of third down-attempts in the league. If they can consistently move the ball on the early downs, it’s tough to slow them. Getting them into 3rd and long (6+ yards) and finding ways to create interior pressure (which they have been susceptible to this year) has shown to be a working model for stopping San Francisco. But don’t blitz - defenses have been trying to send additional rushers to knock Purdy off his game but it’s when he is at his best. It gives the playmakers one-on-ones throughout the coverage and that spells bad news for the opposition. To beat the defense, establish the run. Teams have been killing the Niners defense with explosive runs and it gets the linebacker unit to play on their toes a bit. They’ve been vulnerable to the play action passing game and their secondary is the weak link to a very strong unit.
Q5: The 49ers are 3-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Which side of the spread do you like, and are there any player/game props that fancies your interest?
If I were a betting man, I would stay away from this game. These teams are both very different from their last outing only 2 years ago (a 30-10 Niners victory in 2021). The fact that the bye week is an advantage shared by both squads makes the three-point favoritism for San Francisco a bit surprising to me. The Jags have won five straight and the 49ers have lost three straight. Signs point to this being a close contest, which I think helps San Francisco. If I had to predict, the defense, including the newly acquired Chase Young, begins to refind their form from a year ago and makes things uncomfortable for Lawrence. Niners 27-20.
Thanks again to Ryan for taking the time to answer our questions!
What are your thoughts on this week’s matchup, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!