Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
The defense stinks.
Kyle Shanahan is no good.
On and on it goes. The river of discontent flowing through social media among 49ers fans is an inch wide, but a mile deep, following the team’s 24-20 loss Week 1 to Arizona, which is to say fans will get over it quickly with a victory on Sunday
The defense gave up fewer points to the Cardinals in Sunday’s loss than it did in either of the two victories last season over Arizona, and that includes the six points that were gift wrapped thanks to a blocked punt.
Adding injury to insult, the shuffling of cornerbacks in Santa Clara looks like a line change at a San Jose Sharks game. The 49ers added two players to the active roster (Dontae Johnson and Ken Webster), put two players on injured reserve (Richard Sherman and Tim Harris) and signed two to the practice squad (Brian Allen and Christian Angulo).
The offensive output was not great either, but the team was missing both starting wide receivers and the team’s best receiver, George Kittle was nursing knee sprain in the second half.
On the bright side, Jerick McKinnon looks like he will be a weapon in the passing game, Raheem Mostert displayed some nice hands as he ascends to the top of the running back group, and it is on to New York to face the Jets who are experiencing some injury issues of their own.
For the 49ers, the key to victory in Week 2, defensively at least, is going to start up front with the pass rush. After facing five-year veteran, D.J. Humphries in Week 1, Nick Bosa will be matched up against Mekhi Becton on Sunday. Becton, a rookie first-round choice out of Louisville, acquitted himself well against the Bills on Sunday despite giving up a sack.
The Jets’ offensive line, outside of Becton struggled with the Buffalo Bills pass rush allowing pressure on 44.7 percent of pass blocking snaps.
A strong showing by the defensive line will help a Niners secondary that is so depleted by injury and has so many new members that they had to wear “Hello, My Name is” name tags in the Thursday meeting. With Richard Sherman on injured reserve, Ahkello Witherspoon will get the start opposite Emmanuel Moseley. Witherspoon began the week in the NFL’s concussion protocol but appears on track to start after being a limited participant in Thursday’s practice.
The Niners catch a break because the Jets will be without their best receiver, Jamison Crowder, who was ruled out on Friday morning, which, means the 49ers will probably see a heavy dose of the run.
The Jets will also be without Le’Veon Bell on Sunday, so New York turns to the ageless Frank Gore to start at running back. The Jets struggled to establish a running game against the Bills running for just 52 yards on 15 carries while the 49ers held Arizona’s running backs to 3.9 yards per carry.
Defensively, the 49ers should be able to keep the Jets’ offense under control without having to get too exotic. The pass rush will be able to get pressure without having to blitz allowing the linebackers to help with the underneath coverage.
On offense, this has to be a get-right game for the 49ers, specifically for Jimmy Garoppolo, who was without his top two wide receivers against Arizona. Despite being undermanned, the 49ers had plenty of opportunities in the passing game against the Cardinals.
The Jets struggled to cover crossing routes last Sunday on the way to surrendering 300 yards passing to Bills quarterback Josh Allen, the first such game of his career. Kyle Shanahan will no doubt test New York’s ability to cover these routes, especially with starting linebacker Blake Cashman on the shelf this week.
One area where the Jets defense excelled against Buffalo was against the run. The Jets allowed 98 yards rushing (57 of those to QB Josh Allen) on 32 carries.
The 49ers hope to have second-string center Ben Garland back in the lineup this week, which should boost both the run and pass games.
In the run game, the 49ers should be able to find success by putting the Jets’ linebackers in conflict with pre-snap motion and misdirection. Last week, the 49ers were missing a big element from their run game with the lack of a jet sweep threat from the receiver position, so getting Brandon Aiyuk back will at least provide a credible threat.
In last year’s season opener, the 49ers’ offense struggled to find any kind of rhythm but was able to get on track with a 41-17 road win against Cincinnati. The 49ers should be able to find a similar result this week against the Jets.
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