The 49ers look like one of the most complete teams in the NFL right now, ranking 3rd in points scored and 2nd in points allowed. The strength of their defense really starts up front, with a brick wall of a defensive line and ferocious pass rushers in Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, and Solomon Thomas. Their offense is built on the Shanahan zone run scheme, using largely outside zone runs and short passes off of play action.
I asked Kyle Posey of Niners Nation five questions to better understand the state of the 49ers and what to look for in this game.
1. What have been the 49ers’ most impactful injuries this season and how will they impact the way the team plays on Sunday?
Man. This team has been hit by the injury bug, but that’s not anything new for San Francisco. It’s all about how they adjust. San Francisco will be down their top two offensive tackles, their best cornerback (in my opinion), a “fullback” [Kyle Juszczyk] who so happens to be one of the most important players on the offense, and this week the Niners will likely be down their second-round pick and starting nose tackle. Other than that they’re pretty healthy!
We saw Jimmy Garoppolo drop back 33 times. Jimmy G attempted 23 passes under ten yards. Kyle Shanahan is not going to hang his offensive line out to dry. That’s a sign of good coaching. So you may not see an aggressive offense this week. I would make San Francisco prove they can consistently beat me on the perimeter. I’d be obnoxiously aggressive when it comes to blitzes, take Kittle away, and make a wide receiver beat me. Doing all of those things has proven to be quite difficult for opposing defenses.
2. The 49ers defense has rebounded from being one of the worst in the NFL last year (ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA in 2018) to one of the best this year (ranked 2nd in 2019). What have been the key factors surrounding this turnaround, and are there any weak spots on the defense for the Redskins to exploit?
They have a bunch of good players. It’s really that simple. Upfront, the 49ers can put four guys on the defensive line that have proven they can win more often than not. The pressure they put on quarterbacks force inaccurate throws, the secondary isn’t making any mental mistakes, and the team speed is drastically different.
The way to beat the 49ers is to dink and dunk. Pick them apart underneath, and not allow the pass rush to get there. The problem is you better have shifty ball carriers and receivers that can make somebody miss. The 49ers have been great at open-field tackles. Teams try to run on the Niners, and they’ve had moderate success. The issue here is one of the defensive linemen beat your guy, and all of a sudden it’s 2nd & 12 and you have to throw it.
3. The 49ers offense has revolved around the run game, with most of their offensive yards seeming to come from runs or passes to RBs. Outside of the run game, how have the 49ers passing attack looked (specifically with respect to Jimmy Garoppolo and the WR group)? Is Jimmy G a franchise guy?
I believe in a ton of advanced stats and metrics, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake “QB wins.” Jimmy G is a franchise guy to me since he can convert on third down and he hangs in the pocket to deliver when the big hit is coming. Also, Jimmy wins. He’s 13-2 as a starter. When he plays well, the 49ers are tough to beat. The 49ers don’t really rely on their receivers. Kittle is the guy. Slowly but surely we’re seeing Dante Pettis step up, and I believe he’ll be there by the second half of the season. I think with new targets, the chemistry is a work in progress.
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4. Which lesser-known 49ers players will be critical to the game on Sunday?
It’s the offensive tackles. Justin Skule is a sixth-round rookie, and Daniel Brunskill will make his second career start after being an undrafted free agent in 2017. Shanahan did a good job of mixing up protections so he didn’t leave either on an island for extended periods of time. Washington has to exploit them. The Rams lined up Aaron Donald on the edge trying to, and the 49ers just chipped him with a tight end or a running back.
5. If you were HC of the Redskins, how would you gameplan for this matchup and what weaknesses would you exploit on the 49ers?
I’m being aggressive and selling out on defense. Prove that you can throw the ball outside of the number. If you beat me then you beat me, but I need to see it for four quarters. I’d take away the middle of the field in coverage. Offensively, I’d use the 49ers’ medicine against them. I’d keep them in their base defense, and try and get the third linebacker in coverage, or I’d motion and run at Kwon Alexander, which takes away his speed factor.
Thanks again to Kyle Posey for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the 49ers.
As of right now, Vegas has the Vikings as 16 point favorites over the Redskins. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Vikings win by more than 16 points
Vikings win by 16 points or fewer
Redskins win outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 42 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
More than 42 total points are scored (both sides combined)
42 or fewer total points are scored (both sides combined)