Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
With all of the negative feelings in the fan base right now, the 49ers could really use a few of its key players to bounce back like that so coveted super ball of yesteryears. Although some fans are calling for the 49ers to sell everyone with any talent and start over with a new head coach and a “real” general manager, the 49ers have some extremely talented players who can perform at the top level in the NFL.
There is a common thread for most of these players. Let’s see if you can see what it is.
Oh, how a few weeks can change the narrative around a player. For the first quarter of the season, the 2017 UDFA was leading or among the top three running backs in rushing yards. Now going into Week 9, Breida is tenth and Todd Gurley II has almost twice as many yards as Breida. Its safe to say it will take an incredible second half of the season for Breida to regain the lead in the rushing title, but he could still finish as a top five back. The main issue with Breida right now is injuries. Shanahan seems to let his players play through nearly any injury if the player says he can play. Breida has been extremely dynamic when on the field, averaging an incredible 5.8 yards per carry. With Shanahan balancing his offensive attack some over the past couple of weeks, Breida could actually get enough carries to be a top-five back statistically. Whether or not he gets the carries and stays healthy, expect Breida to create some big plays for this offense and secure his spot in next season’s backfield, whether it include Jerick McKinnon or even Le’Veon Bell.
After a very strong finish to last season, people were talking about Goodwin being the 49ers’ true WR1. So far this season, Goodwin has played in six of the 49ers’ eight games, and didn’t finish any of them. Twelve receptions for 259 yards ranks him sixth on the team in catches but second in yards behind George Kittle, and he leads the team with 4 touchdowns – all on receptions. Averaging two catches and 43 yards a game is not good enough. Goodwin seems to be getting healthier, and his 55-yard touchdown against Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals shows that he can get open and burn any cornerback in the league. He should be in line to be the 49ers second leading receiver behind Kittle, and with 8 games left has the type of talent that could allow him to still reach 1,000 yards receiving on the season. He needs C.J. Beathard to trust him and throw some jump balls and deep balls his way, but there is no reason Goodwin shouldn’t regain his end of 2017 form to close out the 2018 season
Staley isn’t a player that has been talked about much this year, but it has been somewhat of a down year for him. He grades out as the twelfth best tackle by Pro Football Focus with a grade of 77.6, five spots behind rookie Mike McGlinchey, who grades out as the seventh best tackle with an 80.2 grade. Although those aren’t awful numbers, it is a regression over his career PFF grades. Staley, who thought about retirement in the offseason last year, may be thinking about it again. He hasn’t been helped by both Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo holding on the ball for way too long, creating sacks where they shouldn’t be. He has also been beat by edge rushers a little more than we are used to seeing. Staley is an important part of the cohesion of this offense and he is one of the most respected tackles in the NFL. Look for him to bounce back and continue to be a leader on this team.
Fred Warner Jr
Warner Jr started the season much like Breida, leading the league at the most important stat for his position. Since Reuben Foster has returned from his two game suspension, Warner Jr. has dropped to seventh in the NFL in tackles, which is not a bad place for a third round rookie to be. He finds himself 22 tackles behind Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts for the lead in the league. A legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, more plays like Warner’s fumble recovery against the Cardinals will help him close out a rookie season that rivals Foster’s own last year and Chris Borland’s in 2014. Warner is proving to be a top linebacker in the league and he should be expected to continue to a top linebacker for the next ten years. In a season where there are not many bright spots, there is no question that Warner could and should bounce back in to the top three in the league for tackles. If he can force a few fumbles or pick off a couple of passes, it will be hard for anyone to argue a different recipient of that DROY award.
DPOY is not winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. After starting the first three weeks on fire, Buckner has cooled off in some less-than-dominant games. He is currently sixth on the team in tackles, two behind Arik Armstead (27 and 29 respectively). He does lead the team with 4.5 sacks, but 3.5 of those were from the first three games of the season, giving him just one over the last five weeks. After having the fifth most quarterback pressures last year with 52, he just isn’t getting that type of disruption this year. PFF has him grading out at the twenty-first best defensive lineman with a 76.9 grade –not exactly DPOY performance. Shanahan and Robert Saleh have moved him around on the line some this year, and maybe that is having a negative effect on his playing. Buckner has to be as frustrated with his lack of performance as anyone else. He had only one tackle and one pass break up against the Cardinals last week. It would help him a lot if a teammate or two would get some more pressure on the QB, allowing Buckner to shed a defender off of his regular double teams.
So what do you think? Did I miss anyone? Is Solomon Thomas or Armstead going to show they are the key interior lineman moving forward? Can Ronald Blair grab a hold of the edge-rushing spot and lead the team in sacks? What about Beathard – does he show that he can be Shanahan’s Young to Garoppolo’s Montana? Let me know who I missed in the comment section.
You can follow Travis on Twitter here!
Stay tuned to 49ersHub for more great game day analysis!