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Following an ugly defeat at the hands of the previously winless Philadelphia Eagles, the 49ers look to get back in the win column and above .500 this Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins. On Sunday night the 49ers had issues on both sides of the ball, so what are some match-ups you should keep an eye on when the Dolphins are in town?
Mike McGlinchey vs the Pass Rush
All five members of the offensive line played poorly Sunday night, allowing 15 quarterback hits, bringing their season total to a league leading 40 over the first four games. It’s not fair to single out McGlinchey’s play, but the third-year right tackle is the defacto leader of the offense line, expected to fill the void left by Joe Staley following the left tackle’s retirement. McGlinchey was voted a team captain and is viewed as a leader in the locker room, admired for not only his work ethic,but his play on the field. So far in 2020 we’ve seen regression in McGlinchey’s play instead of the development as a pass blocker we all expected. While Kyle Shanahan said this week that McGlinchey’s play hasn’t been as bad as it seems, it still doesn’t pass the eye test. He hasn’t given up a sack, but in his 273 pass blocking snaps he’s allowed six hits and 10 pressures. Miami doesn’t boast the same quality defensive line that Philadelphia does, but with youngsters Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins the Dolphins should challenge the 49ers’ offensive line.
Brandon Aiyuk/Deebo Samuel vs.Xavien Howard/Bryon Jones
The Dolphins invested heavily in their secondary this offseason, signing the Dallas Cowboys’ standout cornerback Byron Jones to a five-year, $82 million contract. Paired with Xavien Howard, Miami has one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. In Aiyuk and Samuel the 49ers have a pair of young and dynamic receivers(the key word being young). While Howard and Jones have 11years of combined experience, the 49ers grouping has barely a year. Jimmy Garoppolo is returning to practice this Wednesday and may get the start on Sunday; if not Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard will see the field. Mullens had issues finding his receivers on a consistent basis versus the Eagles, yet surprisingly that wasn’t an issue Beathard had after replacing Mullens in the fourth quarter. No matter who is behind center, though, Shanahan can make the job easier on Aiyuk and Samuel if he decides to open up the playbook. We’ve seen both players on jet sweeps and both are dangerous with the ball in their hands.
Kwon Alexander vs. Quarterback Keepers
Two weeks ago, Daniel Jones gashed the 49ers defense on the ground.
That’s a sentence I never thought I would write. The Giants’ quarterback led his team with five carries for 49 yards. Likewise Sunday the 49ers’ defense saw another NFC East quarterback take it to them on the ground: Carson Wentz, who finished with seven carries for 37 yards and a touchdown. The main breakdown both weeks was Kwon Alexander.The 49ers’Willlinebacker plays with speed and aggression, fitting in perfectly with the “All gas, no breaks” mentality defensive coordinator Robert Saleh likes to preach. Alexander’s tendency to rely more on physical gifts thanfootball IQ have gotten him into trouble. It’s not unusualto see Alexander overrun a play and flail as the ball carrier runs past him.Coming from the Tampa Bay Bucs, the knockon Alexander was his high number of missed tackles. It seemed that issue had corrected itself last season. But, on multiple occasions in the last two weeks we’ve seen Alexander over-pursue only to get sealed off on a backside block while letting the opposing quarterback run free into the third level. After two weeks, the hope is Alexander has finally learned his lesson and will be better equipped when Miami eventually challenges the linebacker in the same way.
It’s only Week 5, but it’s safe to say this is a must-win game for the 49ers. Sitting two games back of division-leading Seattle, they cannot fall even further back and expect to make a return trip to the playoffs. Injuries were a crutch the team could lean on in New York, but now a deep roster and superior coaching have to take over if the 49ers are to keep pace with the league’s best teams.
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