The 49ers are a team shrouded in what-ifs and optimism. It is tough to truly diagnose what to expect from such a young team, so to help us out, we asked Full Press 49ers managing editor Sanjesh Singh a few questions about the team he covers.
Jimmy Garoppolo opens his first full season as a starter against one of the league’s top defense. What are your expectations for him?
The Vikings defense is very solid, no question, but Garoppolo has experience facing tough defenses. Last season against the Jaguars, he threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 44-33 lead, without receiver Pierre Garcon (and some phenomenal defensive play to intercept Blake Bortles three times). Garoppolo gets his whole receiving crew back, including George Kittle. Plus, the offensive line should play well like they did with Garoppolo under center last year. Garoppolo’s quick release comes into play so look for the backs in Matt Breida, Alfred Morris and Kyle Juszczyk to be involved heavily. Garoppolo will definitely have high expectations with the way he played last season. I’m expecting the same, but I wouldn’t be too quick to throw in the towel if they lose in week one.
Can Marquise Goodwin be a number one receiver on a consistent basis?
Many have argued that Goodwin may already be the number one receiver on the team, but depth charts and experts won’t tell you that. When Garoppolo took control last season, Goodwin posted yard counts of 99, 106, 114, 37 and 28 (final game he left early to injury) and the connection developed quick. Garoppolo loved throwing in his direction and that was evident in the preseason, so it should continue into the regular season even with Garcon’s return.
What do you expect from 49er RBs in the wake of Jerick McKinnon‘s injury?
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said himself that no running back is listed as the starter. However, Breida and Morris are easily the two best backs on the team and both look to be active week one. I’m expecting Breida to get an early load to start off but if he can’t get things going, Morris will get a bulk of the carries as the game closes down. Still, the 49ers may just stick to rotating their running backs and not always keep one out there for the majority of the time like we saw with Carlos Hyde last season. If Morris plays like he did against the Colts in the preseason, I think he’ll slowly become that number one guy.
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Will Solomon Thomas show why he was a top-5 pick in his second year?
Many were quick to call Thomas a bust last season and it was understandable due to his lack of production and injuries here and there. However, he looked much improved in the preseason. He showed more aggressiveness, was active with his hands and brought pressure to the quarterback. His play against the Chargers where he made two tackles for a loss gave us a glimpse of what he could be capable of. I don’t think he’ll get a whole lot of sacks but I’m hoping he can eclipse at least six. He had only three last season. Expect him to bring pressure but he may miss out on finishing the sack, which has been the case for the 49ers’ defensive line so far.
Is Richard Sherman the missing piece the defense needed to take the next step?
Sherman is definitely one of the best corners in the game when healthy (minus the holds) and he’s one of the best corners the 49ers have had in recent memory. That said, I don’t think he himself is the next step. He definitely is an amazing player and personality and he makes the cornerback depth look so much better. But the 49ers need an elite rusher to help out the line, especially since DeForest Buckner will draw doubles teams. If the 49ers don’t bring enough pressure, it can hurt that secondary.
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