• Will Cuberos

Three 49ers Players to Watch vs Washington

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The 49ers’ 2020 season is all but over following an ugly 34-24 defeat by the Buffalo Bills. While the coaching staff will continue to focus on weekly opponents, many eyes in the front office will turn towards 2021 as the team faces an offseason full of questions: 40 free agents, uncertain cap situation, and questions at quarterback.

With 2021 in mind, who are some players to key on during Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Football Team?

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk

“Aiyuk is Julio lil brotha.” That’s how Dez Bryant described the rookie receiver Monday night on Twitter. With perennial All-Pro tight end George Kittle likely out for the remainder of the season, Aiyuk has quickly established himself as the 49ers’ primary threat through the air. While second-year receiver Deebo Samuel is probably the most diverse offensive weapon, Aiyuk is clearly the better receiver. He’s followed up his breakout game against the Patriots, where he posted a career high 115 yards, with games of 91, 75, and 95 yards while finding the end zone in each. Washington’s defense is third in the NFL allowing 203.8 passing yards per game, but if the offensive line can give Nick Mullens some time, there’s not a reason to think Julio’s little brother won’t go off Sunday.

Left tackle Trent Williams

By now the story is well known: Williams developed a rare form of cancer and had to have a tumor removed from his skull. While he recuperated, he sat out the 2019 season over a dispute with his contract. While Williams says he doesn’t hold a grudge against the franchise, and the two people he blames most for his issues there are gone, he should have sufficient motivation versus his former team. Williams has been the lone bright spot on a disappointing offensive line; since the disastrous Miami game, in which no one played well, Williams has allowed zero sacks and only two quarterback hits. Through 11 games Williams has turned himself into a team leader and a player that must be re-signed this offseason.

Cornerback Richard Sherman

Sherman is one of the most candid players in the NFL, thoughtful, articulate, and brutally honest when it comes to his play. If you asked him what he thought of his game Monday night I’m sure he wouldn’t mince words. You could argue Sherman deserves a little leeway considering it was only his second game back after missing 10 games with an injury, but with Sherman’s history as one of the best cornerbacks in the game, performances like Monday stand out. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen looked Sherman’s way, going 3-for-3 for 35 yards and a touchdown against him. Even worse was a pass interference call that wiped out a Fred Warner interception. While Washington quarterback Alex Smith isn’t known for stretching the field like Allen can, it’s fair to assume that they’ll look to match up Terry McLaurin on Sherman to see they can generate similar success. When speaking to the media this week Sherman said he’s enjoyed his time in San Francisco and if given the preference would like to re-sign with the team but acknowledged it would take a “miracle” to sign a second contract with the team. If he finishes the season strong, he would force John Lynch and the front office into a tough decision.

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