It’s Week 17 of the 2023 NFL season and the anemic 4-11 Washington Commanders will be facing an 11-4 SF 49ers team out for blood in Raljon.
After having been manhandled by the Ravens on Monday night, the 49ers will surely be looking at this one as a “get right” game, as the Washington staff begin the process of cleaning out their offices over the course of the next couple of weeks. Hang in there, it’s almost over.
As one of the most successful organizations in the league, the 49ers could be a group Josh Harris looks to poach from this offseason. I asked Ryan Bainbridge of Niners Nation five questions about the state of the 49ers and what to look for in this game.
1) For much of this season, Brock Purdy has played at an elite level. Although he struggled this past week, Kyle Shanahan is arguably the best coach in the league at getting whatever he can from his quarterbacks. What does the future of the QB position in SF look like, and how much of Purdy’s success over the course of the past couple years is the product of Shanahan’s scheming versus his own talent?
The future of the QB position in San Francisco is Brock Purdy. Plain and simple. Purdy has done more under Shanahan than any quarterback since Matt Ryan. He is an elite processor, quick with his decisions, and very good at diagnosing what opposing defenses throw at him. Shanahan’s system benefits the players within it, but the quickness with which Purdy has picked up the nuances of what is asked at the position has been a joy to watch.
For those that haven’t watched San Francisco this season, it has been full of plays that have worked outside of their original design too. Things break down (especially up front) and Purdy has to escape the pocket and create, which he has been marvelous at. Other times Purdy has taken risks by looking for the big play rather than taking the simple stuff and it’s mostly worked. It’s a lot of fun being confident rather than anxious when the team drops back to pass, which has been a big difference from this season to the years past under Shanahan.
2) What has the impression in San Francisco been of Chase Young? Many in Washington were happy to be able to re-coup almost any value for him, but even so, I think a low-cost flyer on him by the 49ers made a lot of sense. Do you expect that SF will make a play to extend him in the off-season?
Young has been a solid pickup. Like you mentioned, it was a low-risk, high-reward move for the 49ers front office so I don’t think it was necessarily reasonable to expect him to come in and get double digit sacks right off the bat. But he’s been a stabilizing force opposite Nick Bosa. There is no question opposing offensive lines have to account for him when gameplanning, which has added another impactful presence to an already talented unit. He’s been solid against the run and has had some really strong pass rush reps that have caused pressures or sacks for other players too.
I would love to see San Francisco find a way to keep him this off-season. However, his market value is likely going to be close to the $20 million mark for at least a three year deal, maybe more. The Niners have been blessed with an incredibly cheap quarterback contract and have made moves to pounce on the window of opportunity. It’s feasible they could keep Young but time will tell what is of higher priority to the SF front office.
3) Washington is almost certainly in the market for a new General Manager this offseason. One of the names that has been thrown around frequently for that role is the 49ers’ Adam Peters. Can you tell us a bit about Peters and the role he’s helped play in building SF into a perennial contender?
In an article back in August, I wrote about how the league views Peters. He’s often in the conversation of best talent evaluators in football. He was interviewed for numerous GM openings this past off-season, including being a finalist for the Giants’ job. Peters was also included as an answer to who the league deemed “most trustworthy”.
A great quote from an anonymous agent: “Good, bad or ugly, Adam (Peters) does it the right way. He treats people with compassion, even when it’s a bad situation. He’s always honest. You know where you stand. I’m surprised he has not gotten a general manager job to this point. I think that if you’re a team looking this year, to put it bluntly, you would be dumb to look anywhere else. I think he is the best in the business.”
John Lynch has previously praised Peters for his draft acumen, especially in identifying talent in the later rounds. That has helped the 49ers land some major talent like Fred Warner, George Kittle, and Talanoa Hufanga after the first day of drafting.
4) Tell us a bit about one player, both on offense and defense, who we might not know about, but who you think we should. Who excites you in terms of their potential?
This is a tough question with the amount of attention this team gets and their overall breadth of talent. Last week against Baltimore the starting safety tandem got exposed, but if I were to pick a player non-Niners fans don’t know about that excites me, it would be Ji’Ayir Brown on defense. The third round rookie has stepped in for the injured Hufanga and has been really great in what was supposed to be a developmental season.
Offensively, there isn’t a great one available. Aaron Banks is finally showing promise at left guard in his third season with the team, but his play isn’t necessarily “exciting” and he’s been dealing with an injury recently. The only rookie on this side of the ball that I can see major upside in is seventh round wide receiver Ronnie Bell. Bell has been trusted to return punts and has seen some offensive snaps (two touchdown catches) which is not an easy thing to do as a rookie WR under Shanahan.
5) What are you expecting the final score of the game to be this week? DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under set at 48.5. How many points do you expect to be scored overall?
I think the 49ers will be motivated after getting out-played, out-physicaled, and out-coached Monday night. Even though they will be behind a day of practice, it seems like things in Washington are looking a bit rough. The quarterback change could be a boost they need to keep it competitive, but I like San Francisco to get back in the W column with an offensive explosion. Their defense needs a rebound game, but the recent tackling issues make me think the Commanders will find ways to score. Give me the over!
Thanks again to Ryan for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the 49ers. Be sure to check out Ryan’s companion piece over at Niners Nation.