Friday Morning Huddle IX: Looking ahead to Dallas
We are moving into week 7 of the NFL season. At this point in the season we know what teams are and we know what they aren’t. The 49ers are not a playoff contender. They aren’t even a middle of the pack team. The 49ers have yet to win a game this season. HC Kyle Shanahan has done everything he could with the roster he has been given, and that’s a record of 0-6 with 5 games in a row being lost by 3 or less points. This is a bad team that keeps games close but just can’t finish. This is obviously the first year of a major rebuild, and it shows. There are young players at every level of this team trying to learn how to be an NFL player. The future is bright in 49er land, but the present hasn’t been what fans were hoping for at the start of this season.
The 49ers finally get to play a home game again, feels like months since they took the field at Levis Stadium. The team has been on a 3 game road trip, 2 being across the country. This week the team has the Dallas Cowboys coming into town. Last season the Cowboys were the number 1 seed in the NFC going into the playoffs with a 13-3 record. The Cowboys currently sit at a record of 2-3 and are 3rd in their division. Though their season isn’t going how they expected, they are still in the thick of the playoff race in the NFC.
The Cowboys had the rookie of the year in 2016 with QB Dak Prescott, and rookie Phenom RB Ezekiel Elliott. Elliot, who is going to play in this week’s match up, will be the player the 49ers will need to stop.
Keys to the game
Bottling up Ezekiel Elliott
The Cowboys offense is built around the running game. Yes, they do have a promising young QB in Prescott, but the running game is what gets this offense going. The 49ers have done better than expected in stopping the run this season, but have had issues stopping backs catching the ball out of the backfield. Elliot is a do it all back, and can beat a team on the ground and in the air. The 49ers defensive line is going to have to win at the point of attack against the very good Cowboys offensive line. DL Arik Armstead, who was placed on injured reserve, will be sorely missed for this 49ers front. DL Deforest Buckner has been the 49ers best player this season. He has been a force in every game and will continue to do so. Rookie DE Solomon Thomas is going to benefit from the Armstead injury. He will see a lot more time on the defensive line and will need to continue his good play.
Stopping Elliot out of the backfield catching passes is a whole different animal. The 49ers have had trouble with contain and poor tackling outside of the pocket when it comes to running backs. The return of LB Rueben Foster is just what this team needs. He is a tackling machine and will need to have a big day stopping Elliot.
Discipline in the secondary
Not only can the cowboys beat you on the ground, they can beat you through the air as well. QB Dak Prescott is one of the better throwers of the football on the move in the NFL. When Prescott breaks contain of the pocket the 49ers defensive backs will need to be disciplined in their coverage because Prescott will beat them deep, even on the move.
Get to QB Dak Prescott
Best way to get to a young QB is to hit him early and often. This defensive line will need to be in his face from the 1st snap of the ball. Keeping contain on the edge will be very important due to Prescott’s running abilities. With Arik Armstead’s injury and DE Aaron Lynch being out a few weeks, the 49ers are thin on the edge of the defensive line. Rookie Solomon Thomas will need to step up in their absence and be a force on the edge.
QB C.J. Beathard build on his play in Washington.
Rookie QB C.J. Beathard was taken in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL draft to the surprise of many. HC Kyle Shanahan knows what he wants in a QB, and toughness is high on the list. Beathard is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a rookie when it comes to standing tough in the pocket under pressure. Beathard came in for ineffective QB Brian Hoyer early in the 2nd quarter of the 49ers week 6 game in Washington. He was handed a 14-0 deficit in which the 49ers offense had yet to do anything to that point. Once he came into the game it gave the offense the spark it needed and the team came just short of an amazing comeback. Beathard was by no means perfect, and had some bad throws, but he showed his toughness and the moment didn’t seem too big for him.
The Cowboys and 49ers are one of the biggest rivals in sports history. These two teams have has some legendary mashups in the past. This week won’t have the fire power as some of those matchups in the 80s or 90s. It will be CJ Beathard first start in the NFL. Getting your first win against the Cowboys would be a great way to start a career in San Francisco. Though the 49ers have not won a game this season, the Arrow is pointing up and this team is preparing for good things to come in the future.